Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Harriet E. Turner
By Jeannette W. Cockroft, Associate Professor History/Political Science, Schreiner University, Kerrville, TX
Activist in Woman's Suffrage Movement
Harriet E. Turner worked as an employee of the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association (MWSA) from 1882 until her retirement on October 31, 1903. During those years, she contributed to a variety of activities designed to further the cause of woman suffrage and women's rights. She served as Corresponding Secretary for the MWSA as well as a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Finance Committee. She also worked part-time for the “The Woman‘s Journal,” the weekly newspaper of the MWSA. The two entities shared the same Boston office space.
As chair of the Committee on Meetings, Harriet E. Turner was responsible for overseeing the many women's clubs aligned with the MWSA. That work included maintaining records of dues paid; credentialing delegates to the annual MWSA convention; and providing speakers from the MWSA headquarters. She was also chosen several times as a delegate the National American Woman Suffrage Association national convention.
In 1902, Harriet E. Turner served on the MWSA's Joint Guardianship Bill Committee, which organized support for House Bill No. 164. The purpose of this legislation was to grant women equal right to serve as testamentary guardians. In support of this legislation, the Joint Guardianship Committee sent out petitions to numerous women's clubs. According to the April 5, 1902 monthly minutes of the Board of Directors, 40,000-50,000 women had signed the petitions within approximately two months. The Committee also agreed to send copies of “The Woman's Journal” to all members of the Massachusetts House and Senate. By June 1902, Bill 164 had been passed in the House of Representatives and was on to its third reading in the state Senate.
Upon accepting her letter of resignation presented on May 1, 1903, the Chair highlighted Turner's hard work, unselfish devotion and ingenuity by noting that she had managed a bazaar that netted the Association 2200 dollars and incurred only 178 dollars in expenses. Turner had also graciously declined the honorarium offered in appreciation of that effort.
Harriet E. Turner never married and lived in the Boston area her entire life. Her birthdate and date of death are unknown, as is any information about her family and early life.
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. Records in the Woman's Rights Collection (WRC), 1893-1918 (inclusive), Harvard University, Schlesinger Library, vols. 97-105, Folder 1069, M-133 reels D27-28, https://hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu/repositories/8/resources/8374, Accessed October 21, 2018