Biographical Database of Militant Women Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Evelyn Wotherspoon Wainwright (Mrs. Richard Wainwright), 1853-1937
By Elizabeth A. Novara
Curator, Historical Manuscripts
University of Maryland
Evelyn Wotherspoon was born on June 13, 1853, in Washington, D.C. She was the daughter of Alexander Summerville Wotherspoon, who was President Zachary Taylor's physician, and Louisa Adelaide Kuhn. She had a sister, Caroline Wotherspoon Matthews, and a brother, William Wallace Wotherspoon, who became a Major General in the U.S. Army and served as Army Chief of Staff in 1914. Evelyn benefited from her position in a prominent family.
Evelyn married Richard Wainwright (1849-1926) on September 11, 1873. The couple had three children: Louisa Wainwright Turpin (1874-19??), Sophia Dallas Wainwright (1877-1877), and Richard Wainwright (1881-1944). Richard Wainwright, Jr., was an officer in the United States Navy and received the Medal of Honor. Evelyn's husband, Richard, served aboard the battleship Maine during the Spanish-American War and was aboard the ship when it sank. He became a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy and was a superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. At various times, the couple had homes in Washington, D.C., and in Annapolis, MD.
Evelyn was a founding member of the National Woman's Party (NWP), assisted the NWP in finding a headquarters at the “Little White House” in Washington, D.C., in 1915, and served on the National Executive Committee. As a Washington socialite, she hosted many events large and small in support of women's suffrage such as a reception for the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage in December 1915 and a reception for women picketers in October 1917.
In April 1917, Evelyn was one of the NWP speakers before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee, and gave testimony about the importance of women's work during the First World War. In May 1917, Evelyn also spoke at a public hearing by the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives. She participated in the Lafayette Monument demonstrations in August and September 1917 and gave an important speech titled “Appeal to Lafayette,” appealing to the democratic traditions going back to Washington and Jefferson. In 1918, Evelyn spoke before the House of Representatives Committee on Woman Suffrage. During this speech, she noted that she had been “a suffragist since 1873.”
In 1920, Evelyn led a delegation of the National Woman's Party (NWP) to Colorado and Wyoming in order to ask for special sessions of the state legislatures on the ratification of the suffrage amendment. During this trip, she had several speaking engagements and assisted in organizing campaigns to place pressure on the governors of these two states to ratify the amendment. She later served as the NWP's Chairman of the Committee on Presentation of Picket Pins, which gave pins to every woman who participated in the pickets as well as worked on commemorating the fight for suffrage.
Devoted to humanitarianism and social work, Evelyn was particularly interested in helping working women and organized relief efforts for their welfare. She also served on the board of the Garfield Memorial Hospital and in the Navy Relief Society. She was involved in the founding of the Girl Pioneers of Washington, which eventually become part of the Girl Scouts, and served as an advisory board member of the Girl Scouts. She remained active in Washington society, hosting many events at her home on New Hampshire Avenue. Evelyn died on November 24, 1937, in Washington, D.C., and is buried with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.
Evelyn Wainwright is mentioned in the following monographs:
Irwin, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Woman's Party, New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, 1921.
Adams, Katherine H., and Michael L. Keene. Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
One of her speeches can be found in Hearings Before the Committee on Woman Suffrage, House of Representatives, Sixty-Fifth Congress, Second Session on H.J. Res. 20, January 3, 4, 5 and 7, 1918. Washington, GPO, 1918.
Many newspapers of the time period mention Evelyn Wainwright and numerous articles in The Suffragist refer to Wainwright.
Newspaper Articles (chronological):
“Turapin [sic] Wainwright Wedding at Naval Academy,” Washington Post, October 29, 1902.
“Will Aid Bureau Women: Mrs. Wainwright to Provide Rubber Aprons for 600 Workers,” Washington Post, April 16, 1909.
Shopgirls' Woes Related Amid Laughter and Tears,” Washington Post, January 25, 1912.
“Girls to Rival Boy Scouts,” Washington Post, February 19, 1912.
“District Girl Scouts and Leaders Begin Their Plans for Spring, Washington Post, March 29, 1914.
“Gala Suffrage Dinner,” Washington Post, December 12, 1915.
“Pickets Revolt in District Jail,” Washington Post, October 25, 1917.
“The September 16 Demonstration,” The Suffragist, September 21, 1918.
“Suffrage Vote in Colorado,” Washington Post, November 16, 1919.
“On Tour for Suffrage,” Washington Post, November 30, 1919.
“To All Suffrage Pickets,” The Suffragist, January-February 1921.
“Mrs. Wainwright's Burial Set Today,” Washington Post, November 26, 1937.
There are also several online resources which refer to Evelyn Wainwright and members of her family:
Richard Wainwright (Medal of Honor)
Richard Wainwright, Rear Admiral
Evelyn Wotherspoon 1850-1937
Evelyn Wotherspoon Wainwright
Find a Grave Memorial
William Wallace Wotherspoon