Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Harriette J. Hifton King, 1874-1929

By Nitra Eastby, senior library associate: Roanoke College, Salem, VA

Copyright clerk, Library of Congress and activist in the Suffrage movement

Harriette J. Hifton King, born Harriette J. J. Hifton, was born in the state of New York on October 24, 1874. Her parents, John Hifton and Lewelia Lesperesa emigrated from Belgium prior to Harriette's birth, and eventually settled and lived the remainder of their lives in Michigan. In Harriette's adult years, she worked in the Mercantile Library in New York. During her time in New York, Harriette met Edward King, a prominent figure in the Central Labor Union in New York and eventual lecturer on positivist theory. In 1903, she took a position in Washington, D.C. as a copyright clerk at the Copyright Office. Despite living in different cities, Harriette and Edward married in 1915, and Edward joined her in Washington, D.C. in 1920. Through this relationship, Harriette was introduced to Edward's mentee, Leonora O'Reilly, who was a suffragist and founding member of the National Women's Trade Union League. Harriette and Leonora remained close friends and maintained frequent correspondence.

In both New York and Washington, D.C., Harriette maintained an active presence in the community. She became a member of the New York Library Club in 1900, she became a member of the District of Columbia Library Association when she moved to Washington, D.C., and in 1904, Harriette joined the American Library Association. She continued to be an active member of the ALA throughout her life, attending annual conferences in 1914, 1916, and 1925. Harriette was also member of the National Consumers' League, and she spoke on behalf of the women in the League and in the Woman's Trade Union League to advocate for an expansion of the parcel post to rural communities in front of the U.S. Congress in 1912.

In addition to Harriette's community involvement through various library associations and the Consumer's League, Harriette held positions of leadership in the State Equal Suffrage Association of the District of Columbia; from 1909-1910, she was the president, and in 1912 she served as the auditor. During the Suffrage Procession of March 3, 1913, Harriette marched with over 8,000 other women, leading a unit of librarians.

In 1922, Harriette Hifton King's husband, Edward died. Shortly thereafter, Harriette became a frequent contributor to Equal Rights, the official publication of the National Women's Party. She wrote reviews on literature about international feminist views, and advocated for full recognition of women's contributions in official capacities, such as within the church. Harriette continued to work for the Copyright Office until she became ill and retired from her position in June of 1929. She and died later that year on November 14, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan.


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King, Harriet Hifton. "Will It Always Be The Ladies Aid." In Equal Rights,11, No. 22, (1924): 6.

Library of Congress, Copyright Office.Annual Report of the Register of Copyrights, 1929, Vol.62(1928-1929), p.6.

Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan, (website).

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Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "Woman Suffrage." In Civil Disobedience: An Encyclopedic History of Dissidence in the United States, 332-38. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2009.

United States, Congress.Parcel Post: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Parcel Post of the Senate Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, under S. Res. 56, to Inquire into and Report to the Senate ... What Changes Are Necessary or Desirable in the Postal System of the United States or in Laws Relating to the Postal Service, and Particularly with Reference to the Establishment of a Parcels Post. Govt. Print. Off., 1912, pp.767-84.

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