Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Helen Colby Haines, 1862-1942
By Kenzi Locks, LMSW, Social Worker and Economic Empowerment Supervisor, STEPS to End Family Violence in New York, NY
Helen Haines was born Helen Stuart Colby in 1862 in New York City to Dr. John Colby and Mary Ann Tannatt. She was educated in both public and private schools in New York. Haines continued her formal education at Wilson College in Pennsylvania, one of the first women's colleges in the United States. She married Charles Owens Haines, a railroad builder and manager, on January 8, 1890. She had sons Stuart (died in infancy) Henry, and Charles Jr., and daughter Marian (died in infancy). For much of her adult life, Haines resided in Portsmouth Virginia, though she spent a good deal of time in New York City during the suffrage movement. She politically identified as an independent.
Helen Haines's role in the battle for women's suffrage took place particularly among her Catholic community. Her piece,”Catholic Womanhood and Suffrage,” was featured in the October 1915 edition of Catholic World, in which she discussed important topics such as workers' unions and labor laws. Haines admonished the owners of the Triangle factory for the negligence that led to the death of 145 girls and women as well as the government which fined them a mere 20 dollars for continuing on with the same safety practices that led to those deaths in the first place. She believed women voters would support and vote for, not only safer working conditions for both women and children, but punitive actions against factory owners whose disregard led to injury and death. Haines demanded to know, “What of that other hideous evil which threatens our national life, beckons to our children at every turn, and fastens itself to the heart of our city governments by corrupt political bonds? Have women - have Catholic home-makers - no concern for these things?” The same year, Haines also wrote a 34-page leaflet entitled “Catholic Womanhood and the Socialistic State,” which was published and distributed of The Paulist Press. She expressed, “we are now told that woman's whole future depends on her economic and political independence. Socialism aligns itself with every measure to assure them.” Haines goes on to express that Catholic women must recognize and oppose the economical and educational oppression of women. However, while Marxian rule may allow for growth and change in those areas, it does not allow for protection and liberty of “[a Catholic woman's] spiritual needs.”
With the constitutional amendment vote just days away, Haines participated in the last suffrage parade in New York City on October 28, 1917. The St. Catherine Welfare Association, a group of Catholic women, which included Elizabeth Jordan, Janet Richards, and Mrs. William A. Prendergast, marched, wrote and orated, with particular emphasis on improving women's social and economic conditions. According to the New York Times, 20,000 marched in that last parade and “women of all ages, from the nearly feeble to the vigorously youthful walked side by side –all seemingly fired by enthusiasm for their cause.”
During her life, Helen Haines wrote and published a number of short stories. The works included The Crimson Rambler (1906), The Turkey Gobbler (1906), and Stubb's Principal (1910). Her writing was published in American Magazine, the New York Evening Post, and Scribner's Magazine, as well as compiled into a book,The Patriots and Other Stories, which was released in 1929 by Atlantic Coast Printing.
Helen Haines died on August 13, 1938 from a cerebral hemorrhage at 77 years old. Both she and her husband - who predeceased her in 1932 - were buried in Savannah, Georgia at Bonaventure Cemetery.
The America History and Genealogy Project . “Distinguished Literary Women-- Gestefeld to Hurll.” Women in America, 15 Feb. 2015, www.ahgp.org/women/distinguished_literary_women_gestefeld_to_hurll.html.
Bobish, Sherri. New York Times (New York City, New York) Death and Marriage Index, 1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.
Certificate of Death for Helen Stuart Colby Haines, 16 August 1938, File No. 17752, Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health. Certified copy in Ancestry.com.
Certificate of Marriage, Charles O. Haines to Helen S. Colby, 14 January 1890, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania. Copy in possession of Ancestry.com
Cummings, Kathleen Sprows. New Women of the Old Faith: Gender and American Catholicism in the Progressive Era. University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 21 April 2018), memorial page for Charles Owens Haines (1862–1932), Find A Grave Memorial no. 75616461, citing Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah,2 Chatham County, Georgia, USA.
Haines, Helen. Catholic Womanhood and the Socialistic State, The Paulist Press, 1915.
Haines, Helen. “Catholic Womanhood and Suffrage.” New Catholic World, 1916, pp. 55–67.
Haines, Helen. The Patriots and Other Stories. Atlantic Coast Printing Corporation, 1929.
Keller, Morton. Regulating a New Society: Public Policy and Social Change in America, 1900-1933. ACLS History E-Book Project, 2005.
Leonard, John William, editor. Woman's Who's Who of America : a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 . [LINK]
Ida Husted Harper, et al., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 [LINK]
“The Progressive Era (1900-1929).” Women in American History: a Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection, by Peg A. Lamphier and Rosanne Welch, ABC-CLIO, an Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2017.