Biographical Sketch of Amelia E. Cameron

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Amelia E. Cameron, 1859-1931

By Erika Davidson Gottfried, Independent Historian

Amelia Ella Cameron (aka A.E. Cameron, Amelia E. Cameron) was born on June 18, 1859, in Brooklyn, New York, to William R. (bet 1820/1834 –1883) and Ellen Cameron (bet 1828/1832 – 1892), immigrants from Scotland and England, respectively. Amelia was the youngest of their three children and their only daughter. The Camerons were a prosperous family. Mr. Cameron followed the trade of wigmaker and hairdresser, and was also an importer of hair and Cameron's older brother, William L. Cameron, established a large company that manufactured pearl buttons and pearl novelties. However, the principal source of the family's considerable wealth appears to have come from property they purchased in Brooklyn's downtown area. The family lived at several different addresses in downtown Brooklyn before settling into a four-story row house in 1871 at 240 Livingston Street, in the fashionable neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. Cameron and her brothers lived there into their adulthood.

In her early forties, Cameron moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, where she lived for most of the rest of her life, with the exception of several years when she resided in several disparate places, including Blauvelt, New York; Glen Ridge, New Jersey; Westport, Connecticut; and briefly, Topeka, Kansas. Cameron's passports described her as blue-eyed, light haired, and 5'4” tall.

In 1899 Cameron graduated and received a certificate from New York University's Women's Law Course, a semester-long course of study for women, which required a challenging final examination and included many distinguished alumnae.

Amelia Cameron's material and social circumstances were typical of wealthy and socially prominent American women in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. She lived in well-appointed, expensive, large homes and apartments, and in fashionable neighborhoods. She employed servants. She owned valuable furnishings, rugs, paintings, and rare books; she traveled extensively, in Europe and beyond, staying in the resorts of the upper classes; her social and philanthropic activities were reported regularly in the society pages of newspapers wherever she lived; she followed no occupation, nor was she employed throughout most of her life.

Less typical of her peers, though, Cameron never married, she bought real estate and financed mortgages, and in the last decade of her life served as an officer in a family business, William L. Cameron Co., Inc. In 1921, she was named Secretary to its Board; in 1925, she became the company's President.

For much of her adult life, wherever she lived, Amelia Cameron joined, founded, and supported woman suffrage organizations. She participated at every organizational level, from neighborhood clubs and local associations to municipal, state, and national organizations, and international bodies, often simultaneously.

Her first appearance in the public record as a suffragist is in1890, when she was elected corresponding secretary of the Brooklyn Woman Suffrage Association. She subsequently served as its auditor (1899) and chair of its “State Laws” Committee (1900). A founding member of the Prospect Heights [Brooklyn] Political Equality League, she served as its secretary (1894), president (1900), and occasional speaker (1898: “The Results of Political Equality in Wyoming”) at its meetings. Even during her brief residence in the hamlet of Blauvelt, New York (1913 - 1914), she joined (or quite possibly organized) a “Political Equality Association of Blauvelt,” that sent two representatives to the annual convention of the National American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and hosted a visit by a contingent of the “Votes for Women Walking Club.”

Cameron was also an active participant in the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (NYWSA). She was appointed to its Program Committee and as one of its delegates to the NAWSA convention in 1902. The following year she joined NYWSA's Legislative Committee. She was also a member of delegations representing NYWSA at hearings in 1899, 1903, and 1909 before the New York State legislature on legislation to extend suffrage to women in the state.

In 1901 Cameron became a life member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was appointed to its “Courtesies Committee” in 1903 and to its “Libraries Committee” the following year. When she moved to Glen Ridge, New Jersey, in 1914, she joined the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, was almost immediately appointed chair of its Enrollment Committee, and served on the Arrangements Committee for an enormous rally for suffrage and commemorating the life of New Jersey-born suffragist Lucy Stone.

In May 1916 Cameron took up residence in Kansas. She had moved to the state, she declared, because women had won the vote in Kansas, and she had “[grown] tired of waiting [for] the opportunity to exercise the franchise on the Atlantic seaboard.” She was also there to work on the woman suffrage campaign in the neighboring state of Iowa, and visited some of the western suffrage states that had granted women the vote, gathering statistics and meeting with local suffrage leader. In June 1916 Cameron traveled to the Republican presidential convention in Chicago as part of the Kansas Equal Suffrage League's delegation. Nonetheless, once in Chicago she marched under the banner of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in the NAWSA's grand parade in front of the convention hall, and she joined its delegation in lobbying New Jersey Republican delegates to support a suffrage plank in the party platform. Cameron returned to Kansas after the convention, cast her first vote in the presidential election held in Kansas in November of 1916, then moved back to the New York City metropolitan areathe following year.

Amelia Cameron was also a member of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). In 1911 she attended its Sixth Congress, in Stockholm, Sweden, as an alternate delegate and presented a special report discussing what woman suffrage had accomplished to improve the economic conditions of women in the U.S. in the states where they had won the right to vote. After the passage of the 19th amendment, when all American women were enfranchised, she turned her attention to woman suffrage outside the United States. She was appointed as one of the U.S. delegates to the IWSA's 1920 congress although it appears she did not actually attend. She remained an associate member through 1923. Nineteen twenty-three seems to have marked the end of her work for suffrage. After that, there is no public record of any political activities on her part.

The most notable of Amelia Cameron's woman suffrage activities, however, and perhaps the greatest adventure of her life, was when she accompanied her close friend, NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt, for nearly a year on Catt's high-profile, well-publicized and eventful world suffrage tour to further the cause of woman suffrage and equal rights, and to examine the state of women's rights in countries all over the globe.

Her journey began on April 1, 1911 when she and Carrie Catt sailed from New York City. Debarking in Hamburg they traveled through Germany Norway, and Sweden, meeting with political leaders, feminists, and other social activists as they made their way to Copenhagen, Denmark, to attend the Sixth Congress of the IWSA in June of that year. They met with leading suffragettes in London before departing for South Africa on July 22nd. Joined by Dutch suffragists Aletta Jacobs (president of the Dutch Association for Woman Suffrage and the Netherlands' first female physician) and her friend Jeanette “Nettie” Charlotte Boersma-Lensvelt, the group spent 76 exciting and arduous days in South Africa, traveling more than 4,000 miles to squeeze in 98 speeches, rallies, meetings, receptions and teas in eleven cities in the Union's four states, as well as meeting with numerous individual political activists. One of those activists was Mohandas K. Gandhi, then a young, relatively unknown attorney. Catt and Cameron visited him in his office in Johannesburg.

Departing South Africa in October, Cameron and her companions traveled to the Middle East, via ship up the East Coast of Africa and into the Red Sea (with stops along the way, including Zanzibar). In (what was then) Palestine, they traveled along primitive roads in temperatures mounting to as much as120 degrees, to Jaffa, Jerusalem and Nazareth. Cameron became ill in Nazareth and rejoined the group in Egypt, where the reunited party organized a suffrage association in their few days in Cairo.

The expedition ended for Cameron in December 1911 or early January 1912. Boersma departed, Catt and Jacobs continued the journey, and Cameron returned to the United States from Egypt. She had been traveling for woman suffrage for nearly nine months.

While she focused most of her energies on woman suffrage, Amelia Cameron was also of service to women in other ways. From 1903 through at least 1926 she was actively involved with the Little Mothers' Aid Association, as a committee member, patron, and occasional classroom instructor. The Association (founded in 1890) was a prominent New York City charity of the settlement house type. Its object was to support wage-earning women with children by providing nursery schools, recreation and classes for girls on domestic skills and caring for younger children, to prepare them to keep house while their mothers worked.

Amelia Cameron died on October 6, 1931, in Brookline, Massachusetts, after a protracted illness, and was interred at Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery. She left an estate of more than half-a-million dollars. The bulk was left to her family and friends, but she also bequeathed $76,000 to seven charitable and religious organizations in New York City; notably, two of these served the needs of indigent older women.

SOURCE NOTES

Newspaper Articles

  • [Obituary for William R. Cameron], The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), August 26, 1883, p. 5.
  • [Obituary for Mrs. Ellen Cameron], The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), August 13, 1892, p. 8.
  • “News from The Netherwood, Where a Good Many Brooklynites are Enjoying Themselves,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), August 13, 1893p. 2.
  • “In The Women's Clubs [...] Political Equality Club [sic]'s Reception,”
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), March 4, 1893, p.7.
  • “Brooklynites Sail for Europe,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), July 9, 1895, p. 7.
  • “Arrivals from Europe,” The New York Times, October 1, 1895, p. 14.
  • “Health Protective Tea – Well Attended Function Given in Honor of Inauguration Day,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), March 5, 1897, p.6.
  • “Day's Gossip,” New York Tribune, December 20, 1898, p. 5.
  • “Female Suffrage Hearing – Joint Committee Session Held in the Senate Chamber – Women Argue Both Sides,” The New York Times, February 23, 1899, p. 8.
  • “Law Class Graduates – Forty-Eight Women Students of New York University Receive Their Scholarships,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), March 31, 1899, p. 5.
  • “New Officers Elected At the Annual Meeting of the Suffrage Association,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), May 17, 1899, p. 13.
  • “Equality League Meetings,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), May 21, 1900, p.15.
  • “Real Estate News: ... Recorded Mortgages ... Bronx,” The Sun (New York, New York), February 26, 1902, p. 14.
  • “Suffrage Convention Closes – Brooklyn Well Represented in the Coming Year,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), October 31, 1902, p. 6.
  • “Teas, Receptions, Musicals and Other Social Incidents of the Lenten Season,” New York Tribune, March 29, 1903, p. A5.
  • “The Real Estate Market ... Recorded Mortgages ... Bronx,” The Sun (New York, New York), March 31, 1903, p. 11.
  • “Brooklyn Auxiliary Formed – Branch of Little Mothers Association Organized,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), June 10, 1904, p.8.
  • “Society At Home & Abroad,” The New York Times, March 4, 1906, p. X7.
  • “In the Social Whirl,” The New York Times, November 3, 1907, p. X-5.
  • “Suffragist or Suffragette,” The New York Times, February 29, 1908, p.6.
  • “Suffragettes And Antis Take Albany By Storm – Crowd Assembly Chamber at Hearing on Hill-Taombs [sic] Bill,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle(Brooklyn, New York),February 24, 1909,p. 1. [“Hill-Taombs” Is a typo, correct is:“Hill-Toombs”]
  • “Women In Albany In Ballot Battle – Suffragettes, Suffragists, and Antis Argue for Hours Before the Lawmakers,” The New York Times, February 25, 1909, p. 1.
  • “Suffrage's Own Convention – A Political Gathering of Women to be Just Like the Real Thing,” The New York Times, October 22, 1909, p. 5.
  • “Enter Suffragists – Now ‘A Real Party' – Mrs. Clarence Mackay Chairman of Carnegie Hall Meeting,” The New York Tribune, October 30, 1909, p. 7.
  • “Society – [recital ... will take place for Little Mothers' Aid Association. The patronesses are ... and the Misses ... A. E. Cameron,” January 23, 1910, The New York Times, p. 48 [aka X-2].
  • “Society Here and There,” The New York Times, November 20, 1910, p. X-5.
  • “Club and Social Notes,” The New York Tribune, November 20, 1910, p. C5.
  • “Suffragists On World Tour – Mrs. Carrie C. Catt and Party Sail for Europe,” Baltimore Sun, April 9, 1911, p. 2.
  • “On The Long Trail -- Round The World For The Women's Vote,” April 10, 1911, The Sun (Sydney, Australia), p. 1.
  • “Mrs. Catt's World Mission,” The Des Moines Register and Leader (Des Moines, Iowa), April 14, 1911, p. 6.
  • “Hiking Suffragists Hungry and Angry – ‘Luncheon' at Blauvelt Proves to Be Pineapple and Lemonade,” The Sun (New York, New York), May 18, 1913, p. 8.
  • “City Social Notes,” The New York Times, November 9, 1913, p. X2.
  • “First Gun Fired in State-Wide Suffrage Campaign,” Rockland County Times (New York), January 31, 1914, p. 2.
  • “Country Dwellings Leased,” The New York Times, April 29, 1914, p. 17.
  • “Suffragists Plan To Reach Voters,” New Brunswick Times (New Jersey), December 29, 1914, , p. 4.
  • “Big Suffrage Demonstration On August 12,” New Brunswick Times (New Jersey), July 21, 1915, p. 2.
  • “Little Mothers' Xmas Festival,” The New York Tribune, December 19, 1915, p. 7.
  • “Mrs. Catt Meets Former Friend Here,” The Des Moines Tribune (Des Moines, Iowa), May 17, 1916, May 17, 1916, p. 5.
  • “Society and Clubs [...] Today's Events,” The Des Moines Tribune (Des Moines, Iowa), May 23, 1916, p. 5.
  • “Evening Gossip,” The Wichita Beacon, June 1, 1916, p. 9.
  • “Suffragists to Chicago,” The Salina Daily Union (Salina, Kansas), June 3, 1916, p. 2.
  • “Local Resident Led Suffragists' Parade,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), June 7, 1916, p. 2.
  • “Suffragist Leader Here,” The Salt Herald-Republican (Salt Lake City, Utah), August 16, 1916, p. 4.
  • “Suffragist Moves To Suffrage State,” The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), August 16, 1916, p. 8.
  • “Suffragists to Invade the Latin Countries – Women Will Form Campaign Plans at Geneva Convention in May,” The New York Times, February 29, 1920, p. 4.
  • “Registered in Paris,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), July 6, 1921, p. 4.
  • “Brooklynites in Paris, ”The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), July 13, 1921, p. 2.
  • “Little Mothers' Aid Meets – Officers Are Elected,” New York Tribune, November 13, 1921, p. B3.
  • “Purchases Suites in Flats of Park Avenue Houses,” New York Tribune, March 12, 1922, p. A16.
  • “Little Mothers' Society Reports on Year's Work,” New York Tribune, November 12, 1922, p. C2.
  • [Display Advertisement for Metropolitan Art and Auction Galleries] “The Mrs. Kernel Babbit's & Miss A. E. Cameron's Magnificent Collection of Books,” The New York Times, December 3, 1922, p. 40.
  • “Estates Appraised [...] Cameron, William L.,” The New York Times, July 12, 1924, p. 19.
  • “Stamford Sojourners,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, (Brooklyn, New York), July 20, 1924, p. 6.
  • “Deaths -- CAMERON, on Oct. 6, 1931,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), October 8, 1931, p. 17.
  • “Miss Cameron's Will Aids 8 Institutions,” The New York Times, October 15, 1931, p. 33.
  • “Cameron Estate $579,354 – Nearly All of it in Real Estate – Charities Receive $72, 252,” The New York Times, August 1, 1933, p. 15.
  • “[Social News [page] ... Display Ad 38 – Untitled] Plaza Art Galleries ...At Auction – Home Furnishings Removed from 969 Park Avenue – The Estate of Amelia Cameron,” The New York Times, May 13, 1934, p. N4.

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