Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Edith DeLong Jarmuth Smith, 1880-1919
By Heather Grevatt, Assistant Professor, Librarian, Boise State University, Boise, ID
Society Lady Turned Suffrage Activist and Bohemian
Edith Elizabeth DeLong was born October 1880 to Dr. Ira Mitchell DeLong and Elizabeth Ann DeLong (née Wright) in Pella, Iowa. The family moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1888 where her father served as Chair of the University of Colorado, Boulder Mathematics department. Smith had one sibling, her sister Ruth DeLong Avery Henderson, born 1892. The family were among Boulder's most prominent citizens.
DeLong attended University of Colorado, Boulder and graduated in 1901 with a degree in Philosophy. While attending university, Smith founded the Alethea Society, a precursor to the Beta Mu Chapter of Kappa Gamma. In 1905, She married an investment speculator and owner of Alaskan gold mines named Adolph John (A.J.) Jarmuth. Jarmuth had two sons, Douglas and John, from a previous marriage. It is occasionally misreported that they were Smith's sons instead of her step-sons, but Smith had no biological children.
In 1907, the family moved to Berkeley, California. It was here that Jarmuth first emerged as a suffragist. Speaking to a reporter, she stated, “While I had always believed in woman suffrage before, I had taken it as a matter of course. When I lived in a state where women had no rights, however, the injustice of it dawned more strongly upon me, and I have been working for the cause ever since.” She became a member of the Berkeley Political Equity Club and in 1908 gave a speech to the Mill Valley Suffrage Club. Though A History of Woman Suffrage credits her with participation in the January 1908 California State Federation of Labor Convention, where an amendment for woman's suffrage was put forward, her activities are not acknowledged by other sources, such as the convention Proceedings.
The family moved again in 1908, this time to Seattle, Washington, and Jarmuth immediately resumed her suffrage activities. She was known for going into department stores and factories to recruit suffrage workers and regularly delivered talks to local suffrage clubs. She wrote several newspaper editorials and both A History of Woman Suffrage and a Seattle Star article give her credit for authoring a popular leaflet titled “The Women of Washington Want the Ballot: Why?” Among the eight reasons given are, “Because those who obey laws should have something to say as to their making” and “Because it is the most womanly, economical and efficient way of influencing public affairs.”
In 1909, Jarmuth was at the center of a controversy that shocked the Washington Equal Suffrage Association (WESA). The issue started with anonymous letters allegedly delivered to Jarmuth and other younger members of the Association. As the newspapers put it, the group was already seeing divisions between the “younger” and “older” factions. When Jarmuth refused to sign a pledge to reelect Emma Smith DeVoe as President of the WESA ahead of the 1909 National Woman's Suffrage Association convention in Seattle, it fueled speculation that Jarmuth intended to run for President herself. Though she had actively supported renowned Spokane suffragist May Arkwright Hutton gathering opposition to DeVoe, Jarmuth adamantly denied she was seeking the presidency. However, when the entire Spokane delegation was denied voting rights at the convention, Jarmuth sided with Spokane and joined other Seattle suffragists in forming their own association. While modern reports focus on the feud between Hutton and DeVoe, Jarmuth was equally prominent in news stories of the day. Despite the discord among the clubs they were reported as working together for the cause and Washington would pass equal suffrage in 1910.
Jarmuth experienced a rather sensationalized divorce in 1915, in which her husband alleged her suffrage activities had “destroyed the domestic side of her nature.” She was served in New York where she was living while completing post-graduate work in creative writing at Columbia University. The high-profile separation was used by anti-suffragist Mrs. William Forse Scott as evidence that women's political participation could only lead to marital discord. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Jarmuth said, “She is a woman who has become possessed of pronounced views on woman's rights and kindred subjects.”
In 1918, Jarmuth was married again, this time to Edward H. Smith, a journalist at New York World and close friend of writer Theodore Dreiser. Though reports around the time of her divorce from Jarmuth stated she would continue suffrage activities in New York, her focus turned largely literary and theatrical. A member of the Greenwich Village Liberal Club, Smith moved in the same circles as Sinclair Lewis and Eugene O'Neill. Several of her poems are contained in the Jack London papers held by The Huntington Library and in her autobiography, anarchist Emma Goldman lamented Smith's unexpected death, while Goldman was in jail. Smith's death on June 6, 1919 was most frequently reported as pneumonia, though it may have been influenza related. Her body was returned to her parents in Boulder and she was interred at Columbia Cemetery. After her death, Dreiser immortalized her as the character Olive Brand in his work A Gallery of Women.
Smith is perhaps best summarized by a 1915 Seattle Star article as, “A leader in literary and social circles, a woman of beauty, a brilliant talker, she was considered among the most valuable suffrage advocates in Washington.”
Photographs of Smith can be found in the The DeLong Family. A.A. Paddock Collection: Pioneer Families (BHS 220-2-18). Carnegie Library for Local History, Boulder, Colorado https://localhistory.boulderlibrary.org/
“Beta Mu,” Kappapedia, updated January 21, 2019, https://wiki.kkg.org/pages/Beta_Mu.
Dreiser, Theodore, “Olive Brand.” in A Gallery of Women (Greenwich, Conn.:Fawcet Publications, 1962), 40-78.
Emma Smith DeVoe. Correspondence and scrapbooks. Washington State Library.
Engle, Nancy Arlene Driscol, "Benefiting a City: Women, Respectability and Reform in Spokane, Washington, 1886–1910" (PhD diss., University of Florida, 2003), ProQuest (3120111).
Goldman, Emma. 1970. Living my life. New York: Dover Publications. (reprint)
Hulme, Peter, “The Liberal Club and its Jamaican Secretary,” (2017): http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/19768.
Loving, Jerome. The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).
“Many Women's Clubs Have Started Winter's Work, While All Will Begin Sessions in Month,” San Francisco Call, September 9, 1907, California Digital Newspaper Collection.
Marshall, Marguerite Mooers, “Votes for Women Means More Divorces Says “Anti;” Points Moral in Jarmuth Suit,” Evening World, January 9, 1915.
“Miner Sues for Decree from Suffragist,” Los Angeles Evening Herald, January 8, 1915, California Digital Newspaper Collection.
“Miss Jarmuth Talks to Women Suffragists: An Interesting Meeting Enjoyed by Those Participating,” Mill Valley Independent (Mill Valley, CA), February 22, 1908, California Digital Newspaper Collection.
"New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:246Q-XKY : 10 February 2018), Edward H. Smith and Edith Jarmuth, 01 Aug 1918; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,643,173.
Pacey, Mary Susan, “The Breakthrough State: The Washington Suffrage Campaign of 1906-1910” (master's thesis, University of Washington, 1978).
Pettem, Silvia. 2010. Only in Boulder: the county's colorful characters. Charleston, SC: History Press.
Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer, "Always be Good Natured and Cheerful”: Emma Smith DeVoe and the Woman Suffrage Movement" (PhD diss., Washington State University, 2004), ProQuest (305107116).
“Smith, Edith Elizabeth DeLong,” City of Boulder Colorado Columbia Cemetery, accessed February 7, 2019. https://maps.bouldercolorado.gov/columbia/columbia.htm?IDNUM=5559.
Smith, Mrs. George A., “Votes for Women,” Seattle Star, October 5, 1910, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
“The Women of Washington State Want the Ballot, ca. 1910,” ca. 1909, PAM0358, Pamphlet and Textual Documents Collection, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington https://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/digital/collection/ptec/id/3362/rec/23.
“Woman Worker for Suffrage in Divorce Court,” Seattle Star, January 8, 1915, Washington Digital Newspapers.