Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890—1920
Biography of Miriam Lee Early Lippincott, 1877-1947
By Melinda McGoug, Historical Society of Haddonfield
Executive Committee and Congressional District Chair, New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association; New Jersey Chair, Committee for Law Enforcement; Board, New Jersey League of Women Voters; First president, New Jersey State Medical Society; Trustee, Rutgers University Board of Trustees Committee on the College for Women; Founding Officer, Women's Field Army of South Jersey (American Cancer Society).
Miriam Lee Early was born in Hightstown, New Jersey, on March 10, 1877, to Harriet Whitmore Ogborn and Robert Morrison Early. She had an older sister, Nellie E. Early, born in 1874. Miriam's father worked as a telegraph operator in Hightstown. In the late 1800s, the family moved to Camden, New Jersey, and Miriam's father began working as a printer. Her mother was a homemaker. The family owned their 729 Mickle Street home.
Miriam graduated from the Pennington Seminary and Female Collegiate Institute, in 1896, and the Graduate School of Oratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1897. Following her graduation from Northwestern, she worked as a private instructor in elocution. In 1900, she returned to Pennington as Director of Elocution and Oratory, where she taught until 1905. From 1907 to 1915 she held positions on the Swarthmore College faculty as head of the Dramatics Department and Instructor in Public Speaking.
By the age of 30, Miriam was well known for her public performances. In April 1907, The Washington Post reported, “Miriam Lee Early, of Philadelphia, will give a dramatic recital, for the benefit of the Florence Crittenton Home, at W.C.T.U. headquarters...Miss Early has met with a cordial reception in large cities.” Her performance at the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U) headquarters indicates Miriam's involvement in the temperance movement. It was her both her dedication to temperance and her belief in women's equality, that led her to support women's suffrage.
In 1913, at the age of 36, Miriam married widower Dr. Ahab Haines Lippincott, Jr., a prominent Camden urologist and surgeon. Dr. Lippincott supported Miriam's political and social service activities. In 1915, Miriam and Ahab's daughter, Barbara Lee, died at three days old. The couple had no other children and lived at 406 Cooper Street in Camden.
By 1914, Miriam was serving as an at-large member from Camden for the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA). She later served on the NJWSA's executive committee, and became the NJWSA's congressional district chairman. In 1920, Lillian Feickert, President of the NJWSA (and later the first woman to run for Senate from New Jersey), appointed Miriam to represent Camden County as a member-at-large of the Republican State Committee. Miriam, a life-long Republican, helped the Committee organize the county's Republican women.
After the 19th Amendment passed, Miriam engaged in speaking engagements and performances encouraging women to exercise their voting right. She also served on the Board of Officers and Directors of the New Jersey League of Women Voters (NJLWV), the successor organization to the NJWSA, for twenty years. During the Depression, she chaired the NJLWV's Committee on the Legal Status of Women. In 1935, Miriam led a campaign to allow for women jurors. As a result, she was among the first women chosen for jury duty in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, in 1936.
In 1920, Miriam was elected to the New Jersey Republican State Committee. During the same period, she served as president of the Camden County Women's Republican Club and on the boards of the New Jersey Women's Republican Clubs (NJWRC) and its successor, the State Council of New Jersey Republican Women (SCNJRW). In 1924, she was a delegate-at-large from New Jersey to the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. In 1932, the SCNJRW actively campaigned for President Hoover, and in April of that year Miriam was among a SCNJRW delegation that was received by Hoover in the White House.
Her political activism was largely driven by her support of Prohibition and belief that it was women's moral responsibility to keep the nation dry. During Prohibition, Miriam served on the board of the New Jersey Anti-Saloon League (NJASL) and chaired the New Jersey chapter of the Woman's National Committee for Law Enforcement (CFLE). The CFLE was a federation of Protestant women's organizations that promoted the enforcement of Prohibition laws. In 1926, Miriam twice argued in favor of the Volstead Act before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Senate, on behalf of the NJASL and CFLE. Prior to one of these appearances, the Jersey Journal reported, “When it was announced that Mrs. Lippincott would take the stand many knew that fireworks were in order.”
Miriam believed that Prohibition was the most important modern reform, and that it was women's duty to protect it through exercising the vote. During a 1924 speech, she urged CFLE Presidents to rally women to their cause. The Camden Courier-Post quoted her saying, “Church women have been called 'rocking chair saints'. We would change this to 'rocking chair sinners,' for the woman who fails to do her bit to suppress the criminal wave in this country is herself responsible for that crime." Her friend, Zula Casselman, said that Miriam regretted, “that more women did not exercise the right of franchise and participate more fully in public affairs.” When Prohibition was repealed in 1934, the CFLE lost its purpose and disbanded.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Miriam advocated for the World Peace movement. She held leadership positions on the National Committee on the Cause and Cure of War and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She also served as the South Jersey Chair of the American Foundation's Committee on Foreign Relations (AFCFR) and was a delegate to the first World Peace Conference, held in Brussels, Belgium, in 1935.
Miriam was also a member of the Woman's Club of Camden, part of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, until her death in 1947. She became a Club Director in 1917 and served as President from 1927 to 1930. From 1933 to 1943, Miriam was Chair of the Club's Committee on International Relations. She also served several years as Chair of the Drama Department.
Through her association with the Woman's Club, Miriam became involved with the campaign to establish the New Jersey College for Women, later Douglass College of Rutgers University. She was elected to the Board of Managers in 1922, and served as a member of the Rutgers University Board of Trustees Committee on the College for Women from 1932 until her death. During her tenure as President of the Woman's Club of Camden, 100 Woman's Clubs in the state funded the creation of a music building at Douglass. The Woman's Club of Camden also provided funds to dedicate a studio to the memory of Miriam's daughter, and, in 1938, Miriam funded the Barbara Lee Lippincott Scholarship at Douglass in memory of her daughter. In 1962, in recognition of her many contributions and long service to the college, a student residence building on the Douglass College campus, Lippincott Hall, was named in her honor.
In support of her surgeon husband's work, Miriam took on leadership positions in numerous medical organizations. In 1927, she organized and served as the first President of the first Auxiliary to the New Jersey State Medical Society. From 1927 to 1928, she organized auxiliaries in every county in New Jersey. After her husband's death in 1937, Miriam remained Director of the New Jersey State Tuberculosis Association and a Trustee of Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia, where her husband had practiced.
From 1937 until her death, Miriam dedicated herself to the fight against cancer. She advocated for early cancer detection as the first State Commander of the Women's Field Army of South Jersey, an outgrowth of the American Society for the Control of Cancer (later the American Cancer Society). By 1947, she had inspired residents in all 21 New Jersey counties to form American Cancer Society chapters. Casselman, who founded the Field Army with Miriam, summed up Miriam's activism in a 1947 tribute stating, “during her years of service she made thousands of speeches before almost every organized group in the State... She came to be known and always will be remembered, because of her contribution to the work, as the ‘cancer lady'.”
Miriam worked for women's suffrage, prohibition, world peace, women's education, and early cancer detection. She also took on leadership roles in many social service organizations. In 1937, the Soroptimist Club named her Camden County's most outstanding woman for her “service, leadership, citizenship and womanhood.”
Some of her other notable achievements include:
- 1921 - First woman appointed to the Camden City Board of Education and served as its Vice President from 1924 to 1927
- 1924 - New Jersey representative on the national board of the YWCA
- 1938 - Chairman for United China Relief in New Jersey
- 1938 - Director of the Camden County Safety Council
- 1938 - Charter member of the Goodwill Committee of New Jersey
- 1941-1945 - First woman president of the Camden County Historical Society
In the summer of 1947, Miriam suffered a heart attack. After a ten-week hospitalization, she died on August 28, at the age of 70. She is buried near her daughter and husband in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. Her obituary in The Trenton Evening Times named her, "one of the foremost woman civic leaders in Camden.”
Burstyn, Joan N. Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women, (Women's Project of New Jersey, Inc., 1997), pgs. 344-346.
Gordon, Felice D. After Winning: The Legacy of the New Jersey Suffragists 1920-1947, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1982), pgs. 69-73, 132-133, 157-159.
McGoldrick, Neale, Crocco, Margaret. Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Woman Suffrage in New Jersey, (Women's Project of New Jersey, Inc., 1994), pg. 91.
“Miss M. L. Early Will Give Recital,” The Washington Post (Washington, DC), April 19, 1907, pg.5.
“Local Citizens Elated Suffrage Battle Is Won,” Camden Daily Courier, August 18, 1920, pg. 1.
“CAMDEN RESIDENTS URGED TO BUY HERE – Woman's Club Passes Resolution to Boost Trade – Hits Terminal Plan,” Camden Courier-Post, December 2, 1930.
“To Give Recital,” Camden Courier-Post, July 16, 1924, pg. 2.
“Dry Atmosphere At Kean Dinner –Mrs. Lippincott Declares Necessity of Having Men Favoring Enforcement,” Camden Courier-Post, September 9, 1921, pg. 2.
“WOMEN-AND WHAT THEY ARE DOING – Mrs. A.H. Lippincott Announces World Court Meeting for November 9; to Give Roosevelt Tea for G.O.P. Club of County,” Camden Courier-Post, October 23, 1931.
“Mrs. Lippincott to Attend Law Enforcement Meet in West,” Camden Courier-Post, October 28, 1936.
“MRS. LIPPINCOTT GIVES RECITAL TOMORROW,” Camden Courier-Post, October 28, 1936.
“Thursday Meet Slated By Burlington G.O.P.,” Camden Courier-Post, February 15, 1938.
“Safety Council Reorganized Here,” Camden Courier-Post, February 19, 1938.
“Zontas to Meet Tonight in Hotel Walt Whitman,” Camden Courier-Post, February 3, 1938.
“MRS. LIPPINCOTT,” Trenton Evening Times, August 31, 1947.
Casselman, Zula Boyd. “A True Civic Leader – Miriam Lee Early Lippincott,” The New Jersey Club Woman 22, (October 1947), pg. 10+. New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs Papers. New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs Headquarters, New Brunswick, NJ.
Camden County Historical Society Papers. Camden County Historical Society, Camden, NJ.
Camden Woman's Club Papers. Camden County Historical Society, Camden, NJ.
American Cancer Society website.https://www.cancer.org/about-us/who-we-are/our-history.html
County Woman Magazines website. http://www.countywomanmagazines.com/articles/396/1/Notable-Camden-County-Women/Page1.html
Rutgers University website. http://facilities.rutgers.edu/students-parents/new-brunswick/cook-douglass/lippincott-hall
- Federal Census of 1870, 1880, 1910, 1920
- New Jersey Marriage Records, 1882-1995
- New Jersey State Census, 1885
- Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013
- U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995
- U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900-1990
- Newspaper Archive
“MRS. LIPPINCOTT TAKES BOARD OATH.” Photograph of Mrs. Lippincott being inducted into the Camden Board of Education, Camden Post-Telegram, January 15, 1921.
Unidentified newspaper. “In Recital Here Tonight.” January 29, 1934. Scrap Book in Camden Woman's Club Papers, Camden County Historical Society, Camden, NJ.
Unknown photographer. Miriam Lee Early Lippincott. Undated. Camden County Historical Society Papers, Camden, NJ.
Undated photograph of Mrs. Lippincott taken from the article by Zula Casselman in The New Jersey Club Woman, October 1947. New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs Papers, New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs Headquarters, New Brunswick, NJ. The uniform is likely that of the Women's Field Army of the American Cancer Society.