Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Susan J. Cheney, 1827-1914
By Eleanor Raab, student, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut
Susan Jarvis Cushing was born May 9, 1827 in Providence, Rhode Island to Susan Barrett Jarvis and Captain Daniel Cooke Cushing, a merchant. She married Frank J. Cheney of South Manchester, Connecticut, one of the founders of the famous Cheney Brothers Silk Factory. Together they had five children: Katherine Sedgewick Farley (born 1854), Mary Cheney (born 1855), Alice Barrett Cheney (born 1858), Frank Cheney Jr. (born 1860), and Paul Howard Cheney (born 1867). Her sister-in-law was well-known suffragist Ednah Dow Littlehale Cheney. There is no record of her having attended college.
During her lifetime, Mrs. Cheney was very active in Connecticut suffrage organizations, and often associated with famous women in the suffrage movement. There are records of her interactions with, and financial donations to, Susan B. Anthony from as early as 1870. She was involved in the founding of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association (CWSA), the first pro-suffrage organization in the state, and was among the signers of a petition that called for the first meeting of the organization in October 1869. Mrs. Cheney was elected to the first iteration of the CWSA's executive committee during that meeting. There are records of her re-election to the executive committee in both 1877 and 1884. She remained a member of the CWSA until at least 1911. Moreover, she donated money to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1893, in addition to being listed as a member of the Connecticut branch of the organization.
Between 1881 and 1887, Mrs. Cheney continued to promote the equality of women as a vice president of the Association for the Advancement of Women. She stepped down from her vice-presidency in 1888 but remained a member of the association until at least 1891. From 1889 to 1895, she also served on the executive committee of the New England Woman Suffrage Association. She was made a life member of the Hartford Equal Rights Club.
Beyond her suffrage work, Mrs. Cheney was involved in numerous clubs and charities around Connecticut. In 1896, she became the vice president of the Society of Colonial Dames. In 1902, she was made a life member of the Hartford branch of the Woman's Board of Missions. Mrs. Cheney was also politically active. She ran for, and won, the race for Manchester school visitor in 1893, the first year that women were allowed to vote on school issues. She was elected again in 1896. Additionally, she consistently donated money to arts venues, museums, and hospitals. She worked to improve South Manchester, Connecticut, and was responsible for donating the land and money required to build the public park in the center of the town.
Susan Cheney did not live to see the ratification of the 19th amendment; she died on July 22, 1914 after a long illness and is buried in the Cheney Cemetery in Manchester, Connecticut.
1. Barlow, Susan. “One Hundred Years of Center Park.” Manchester Magazine. Spring 2005, p. 6.
2. Burr, Frances Ellen. “Woman Suffrage in Connecticut.” Woman's Journal. November 17, 1877, p. 364.
3. “Colonial Dames,” Evening Gazette from Norwalk Connecticut. November 16, 1896, p. 1. https://cslib.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15019coll9/id/28297
4. “Connecticut Women Voters,” Los Angeles Herald. November 12, 1893, p. 10, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH18931112.2.49
5. “Equal Rights Club Recalls Pioneers,” Hartford Courant. December 19, 1913, p. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/369019075/
6.“Frances Ellen Burr's Letter,” History of Woman Suffrage, Volume III. Edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Rochester, NY: Charles Mann, Printer, 1887, p. 334-335.
8. “Life and Light for Woman.” Boston, Massachusetts: Woman's Board of Missions, 1902. Vol. 32, 1902, p. 111. https://books.google.com/books?id=A-rOAAAAMAAJ
9. “Mrs. Susan Jarvis Cheney,” Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Book, Volume VI. Washington, DC: Daughters of the American Revolution, 1898, p. 247.
10. “New England Suffrage Meeting (Continued From First Page),” The Boston Globe. May 29, 1894, p. 7.
11.“1900 U.S. Census, Manchester, Connecticut, Population Schedule.” Family 234, Susan J. Cheney. https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4118709_00546?pid=7202271
12. “Officers Chosen for Another Year of Work,” The Boston Globe. May 29, 1889, p. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/430850288/
13. Papers Read Before the Association for the Advancement of Women. Fall River, Massachusetts: Association for the Advancement of Women, 1892. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000500520
14. Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Washington, DC: The National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1893, p. 129, 151. https://books.google.com/books?id=zn4EAAAAYAAJ
16. “Resolutions on Death of Susan J. Cheney,” Hartford Courant. August 11, 1914, p. 5. https://www.newspapers.com/image/369406727/
17. “Suffrage Association Holds Its Sessions,” The Boston Daily Globe. May 9, 1895, p. 1. https://newspaperarchive.com/boston-daily-globe-may-29-1895-p-1/
18. “Susan Jarvis Cushing Cheney Grave Information,” Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83204078/susan-jarvis-cheney
19. “Woman Suffrage in the House Today,” Hartford Courant. June 7, 1911, p. 18. https://www.newspapers.com/image/369420935/
20. “Woman Suffragists Chose Officers,” The Evening Journal from Wilmington, Delaware. May 28, 1890, p. 1.
21. The Women of the Suffrage Movement: Autobiographies and Biographies of the Most Influential Suffragettes. Musaicum Books, 2018. Vol. 1, Chapter XX. https://books.google.com/books?id=OxFkDwAAQBAJ