Biographical Sketch of Penelope Butler Huse

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Penelope Butler Huse, 1873-1950

By Osariemen Emokpae, SUNY Old Westbury. Faculty Sponsor: Carol Quirke

Chair, Presidential Suffrage Committee, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1915-1917; Union County Woman's Suffrage Organization, Treasurer, 1919

Congressional Chairman New Jersey Woman's Suffrage Association, 1917

Penelope Butler Huse (Parker) was born on November 16, 1873, in Middlesex County, NJ. She was a white woman of English and Dutch ethnicity, and according the Princeton Alumni Weekly, a descendant of Stephanus van Cortlandt, the first New York born mayor of New York City. In 1902, she married Robert Selden Huse. Her husband was a director of Guantanamo & Western Railroad Co. The couple appeared to be upper-class given the husband's work as a lawyer and membership in the Society of Colonial Wars, an organization of descendants of participants in the Revolutionary War, according to Who's Who in New York City. The Huses had one son, Robert Selden Huse Jr., who became a lawyer. During the war years she chaired the Women's Liberty League in New Jersey, according to the Bridgewater Courier-News.

Eight years after her marriage, in 1911, Huse became active in the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association campaign for the right to vote. Huse became chair of the Presidential Suffrage Committee for the NAWSA and one of its main speakers of the 1915 campaign. The 1917 Handbook of Woman Suffrage explained that one strategy was to have women appointed to the Electoral College as a step toward full suffrage.

The platform of every political party endorses the principle of equal suffrage, and it is logical, under these circumstances that suffragists should ask their State representatives to redeem the pledge of their party platform, by giving to women citizens whatever measure of suffrage is possible under the constitutions of the several States. As has been pointed out, it is always possible at any time, under the Federal Constitution, for the Legislature of any State to give its women citizens the right to vote for Presidential and Vice-Presidential electors, and it is the earnest hope of your chairman that next year a number of State organizations will try this avenue of escape from disfranchisement.
Penelope B. P. Huse, Chairman. (61-62)

Huse spoke regularly at local New Jersey suffrage meetings, particularly on the importance of women's political and partisan engagement, and for “clean politics,” with an early reference by the Bridgewater Courier News in 1914.

Huse used various forms of activism to achieve her goals, such as public speaking and publications, marches, etc. with the goal of reforming the voting laws placed within our Constitution. Huse was involved in Republican Party politics until 1927, and according to the Perth Amboy Evening News she served on the Republican Party's State Committee and served as Vice President of the Republican Club after suffrage was won. New Brunswick's Central New Jersey Home News quoted her vociferous advocacy of women's engagement in partisan politics, saying intemperately, “people who don't go out to vote, ought to die.” She also served on the Elizabeth, New Jersey School Board, once suffrage was granted.

Huse was a major activist in the fight for birth control rights, and corresponded regularly with birth control activist Margaret Sanger. She is quoted by numerous contemporary anti-choice sources, as advocating for eugenics (Meehan, 81). The American Birth Control League, founded by Margaret Sanger, promoted birth control information to health care professionals and women, encouraging women to fight for control over their own fertility. After her resignation as Executive Secretary, a position she held until 1929, Huse also worked for the Committee for Maternal Health, and then at Ortho-gynol, a pharmaceutical company that pioneered spermicidal jelly and other contraceptives. She served as acting director for New York's Planned Parenthood Federation in 1941, where, according to the New York Times she defended the Federation's right to disseminate family planning information at the New York State Fair.

Huse died on July 6, 1950 at her home in Perth Amboy, NJ.

Sources:

The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 24, 1923.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6. 1900-1920, (NY: J.J Little Ft. Ives Company). [LINK]

Margaret Sanger Papers, “Editors Notes,” at http://editorsnotes.org/projects/sanger/notes/160/.

Mary Meehan, “The Road to Abortion,” Human Life Review, 24 no 4, (Fall 1998), pgs. 76-89.

McCann, Carole, Birth Control Politics in the United States, 1916-1945, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pg. 196.

Mohr, William, Who's Who in New York City and State, 1914, pg. 382, at https://books.google.com/books?id=5exHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA382&lpg=PA382&dq=penelope+butler+huse&source=bl&ots=uA2qMnoSQg&sig=eG1K807N6f5hyDwiqfdqZwV6AH8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiQ_4OixIHdAhUBneAKHdagD6wQ6AEwCHoECAEQAQ#v=onepage&q=penelope%20butler%20huse&f=false.

“Mrs. Feickert to Speak in Bayonne,” Bridgewater Courier-News, December 4, 1914, pg. 14.

“New Jersey Woman's Republican Club,” Asbury Park Press, July 19, 1922, pg. 1.

Patterson, Hannah J., ed., The Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Associations and Proceedings of the Forty-Eight Annual Convention Held at Atlantic City, NJ. September 4-10, 1916. Vol. 6. (New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company), at https://books.google.com/books?id=Z0ovAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA16&lpg=PA16&dq=%22mrs.+robert+huse%22&source=bl&ots=ghzoqH7tfI&sig=4ZGhknvTl4O_DVVG8JwtYdvPdgg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6lq-08oHdAhUihOAKHZ2vCe0Q6AEwBnoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22mrs.%20robert%20huse%22&f=false.

National American Women's Suffrage Association, Woman Suffrage Year Book, 1916, (New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company), pg. 61, at https://archive.org/stream/womansuffrageye00conggoog/womansuffrageye00conggoog_djvu.txt.

"Penelope Butler Huse." Geni_family_tree. March 12, 2015. Accessed April 17, 2018. https://www.geni.com/people/Penelope-Huse/6000000027364027425.

"Penelope Butler Huse." Geni_family_tree. August 31, 2017. Accessed April 17, 2018. https://www.geni.com/people/Penelope-Huse/6000000066099963650.

"Penelope Huse in the 1940 Census." Ancestry. Accessed April 17, 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/1940-census/usa/New Jersey/Penelope-Huse_4nrjj2.

“Poletti Assailed on Birth Control,” New York Times, August 26, 1941.

"Princeton Alumni Weekly, Volume 60." Princeton Alumni Weekly, October 2, 1959, pg. 35, at https://books.google.com/books?id=nxJbAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA35&lpg=RA1-PA35&dq=penelope+butler+huse&source=bl&ots=Q1m7qIAVrX&sig=RsjvJu0cg_bkKPDFHnidJosP2Ag&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiQ_4OixIHdAhUBneAKHdagD6wQ6AEwBnoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=penelope%20butler%20huse&f=false.

“Republican Women Start Work in Trenton,” Perth Amboy Evening News, January 11. 1921, available at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85035720/1921-01-11/ed-2/seq-7/#date1=1789&index=2&rows=20&words=Huse+Mrs+Robert&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=New+Jersey&date2=1963&proxtext=%22Mrs.+Robert+Huse%22&y=10&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

"Re: Caleb Huse (b.11 Feb 1831) & Descendants." Genealogy.com. Accessed April 17, 2018. http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/huse/145/.

Silverman, Matthew Joel, “You can't forge a womb”: The 1929 Birth Control Clinic Raid and Changing Notions of Masculinity in Early 20th Century America,” Masculinities, February 2016, pgs. 26-52.

“Suffragists of City and County Conduct Elections,” Bridgewater Courier-News, May 15, 1919, p. 5.

“Suffragists Hear Interesting Talks,” Bridgewater Courier-News, October 24, 1917, pg. 3.

"The Quest for Contraceptive Knowledge: Marking the 80th Anniversary of the Zurich Conference" Newsletter #56 (Winter 2010/2011), The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/articles/zurich.php.

“Woman on School Board of Elizabeth,” Bridgewater Courier-News, January 8, 1921.

back to top