Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Edwine Blake Evans (Mrs. Henry) Danforth, 1863-1961
By Sara L. Bartlett, independent scholar and author
Chairman, Executive Committee, Seventh Suffrage Campaign;President, Rochester Board of Education; Vice Regent, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association for New York
Edwine Louise Blake Evans Danforth was born on July 24, 1863 in Buffalo, New York, and died May 20, 1961 in Rochester, New York. She was the daughter of Edwin Townsend Evans (1837-1909) and Sarah Ellicott Grant Evans (1838-1873). Her older brother was James Carey Evans (1862-1931), and her younger sister was Grace Ellicott Evans Noye (1866-1910). She also had two younger half siblings, Ellicott Evans (unknown–1950) and Alethe Evans Clinton (1876-1945).
Young Edwine grew up in Buffalo, New York, and was considered quite a charming beauty. Her peaches and cream complexion earned her the nickname "Peachey." She met Henry Danforth, a judge's son, who had just graduated from Harvard Law School. They were married on November 8, 1888 and moved to Rochester where they became part of the social life of that city, which included hosting informal "at homes," where people from many walks of life met for social conversation and debate.
Henry was a U.S. Representative from New York from 1911 to 1917 during World War I, and while they were in Washington, Edwine volunteered as a Red Cross nurse. She also was Vice Regent of the Mount Vernon ladies' Association for New York from 1922 to 1948, and as Vice Regent, she was chosen to be hostess to the King and Queen of England at the opening of the restored Mount Vernon in Virginia.
Edwine was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Seventh Suffrage Campaign District (Monroe, Livingston, Wayne and Steuben Counties, New York), and as such, she wrote a response to the plan to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House while the war was on, “Picketing the White House is unpatriotic and injurious to the suffrage cause both national and state.” However, the demonstrations went ahead in Washington with many women being arrested, but Edwine was among a sizeable group opposing the picketing.
Her resolution to pledge suffrage organizations' assistance to Herbert Hoover's Government Housewives' League was adopted, and they met once a week in New York City. A newspaper quote of 1917 supported her many activities, “Mrs. Danforth brings to the office the advantage of years of experience, both in suffrage work and other forms of service. She is an active participant in the Red Cross and served as local Chairman of the Woman's League for National Services.”
In the days of no television and social media, it was a monumental effort to unite women to communicate their causes. There were suffrage conventions, of course, and those leaders were encouraging women to speak out, but how to do that was still a formidable task. A major solution was women's groups and study clubs that were surging everywhere. Edwine and her many friends soon discovered the amazing effect of “two or more uniting for mutual help and inspiration. . . in the parlors of appreciative women," as reformer Bronson Alcott said.
Edwine was a charter member of the Wednesday Morning Club, established in 1890, and her work with the Women's Educational and Industrial Union and the Memorial Art Gallery was well respected. She was probably best known for her membership on the Board of Education of Rochester from 1921 until 1932 and was president for several of those years.
Even though she did not attend college, higher education for women was an important issue for Edwine, and she and Susan B. Anthony succeeded in getting women accepted at the University of Rochester. The Danforth Towers Residence Hall and Danforth Dining Center are named in her honor at UR.
Also, she was on the editorial board of the progressive journal, The Common Good, of the Baden Street Settlement, a Reform Jewish settlement house. Edwine was known to be an excellent writer and belonged to a group of women who met monthly to share their writing with each other. The Rochester Women's Club has an article of hers called “Rochester's Gay Nineties” written in 1942. She wrote on many varying subjects such as Japanese Jujitsu and Australia.
She and Henry were world travelers and long respected members of Rochester society. Henry passed away in 1918, but Edwine lived to be 97 and continued to be active in her civic life well into old age, all the while living in the house that she and Henry lived in. The house was later donated to Rochester and has since become the Danforth Recreation Center for seniors. A sign over the door reads, “Old age, we spit in your eye.”
Baden Street Settlement Records, University of Minnesota
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 5 [LINK]
Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
New York Heritage Digital Collection
Rochester Museum and Science Center
Wilson Library, University of Minnesota
Anderson, Linnea, Librarian, Baden Street Settlement Records
Ball, Stephanie, Archivist-Librarian, Rochester Museum and Science Center
Harper, Lucy, Librarian (Retired), Memorial Art Gallery
Kimberly, Edwine Danforth, Danforth Development, Inc.
Searl, Marjorie Barkin, Chief Curator (Retired), Memorial Art Gallery