Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Abigail Drake Baldwin (Mrs. A.D.) Chandler, 1829–1927
By Beth Kanell, author, Waterford, Vermont
Vermont Woman Suffrage Association: President; Vice-President; Treasurer; Auditor; Local Committee for Barton Landing
Abigail Drake Baldwin was born in Strafford, Vermont, on October 22, 1829. Her parents were Eleazer Baldwin (1777-1856) and Polly Ladd (1785-1870), lifelong Strafford residents. Eleazer was a physician, and served in the Vermont House of Representatives.
Abigail Drake Baldwin married Levinus Norman Chandler (1824-1890) on January 5, 1848, when she was 24, and they had three children; two (Abbie Jane Chandler, 1854-1856, and George Baldwin Chandler, 1858-1864) died in childhood, but their first child, Edward Levinus Chandler (1849-1898), lived to marry and have one child, who also died young.
Mrs. A. D. Chandler, as she self-identified and was known in local news, moved with her husband from Berlin, Vermont, where they had married, to Northfield and then to Barton, in Orleans County, Vermont, where their second child was born. Levinus Chandler ran a furniture store in Barton while the Chandler children were young; then he ran a sawmill, then became a lumber dealer, all in Barton. The couple's home was in Barton Landing, a large village of the town that would later (1908) change its name to Orleans to relieve some confusion.
When the first annual meeting of the Vermont Woman's Suffrage Association (VWSA) was held on January 14 and 15, 1885, it was held at the M. E. (Methodist) church in Barton Landing and Mrs. A. D. Chandler gave the introductory welcome. The next morning, she was elected Vice-President. In May 1886, Mrs. A. D. Chandler attended the New England Women's Suffrage Association meeting in Boston as delegate from Vermont and spoke at the meeting. Back in Vermont, she served in many leadership roles in VWSA, including President, Treasurer, and Auditor.
Meanwhile, a chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) was organized in November 1886 in Barton Landing, with Mrs. A. D. Chandler as its first secretary, and she continued to be an active member of the Union for many years, delivering the “Legislative Department” report to this group's June 1892 meeting.
As President of VWSA, Mrs. A. D. Chandler read the Vermont report to the January 1893 meeting of the National Woman Suffrage Association, beginning as follows: “The Vermont Woman Suffrage Association has 173 members, representing seventy-eight towns. It has no local association, but works through local committees, of which there are forty-one in different parts of the State. In addition to the usual educational work during the past year the association circulated petitions for municipal suffrage, and the bill passed the house 149 to 83, the largest vote ever obtained for a woman suffrage measure in Vermont, but failed in the senate, 18 to 10.”
When the tenth annual convention of the VWSA was held in June 1894, Mrs. A. D. Chandler was President and called the meeting to order in St. Johnsbury. The next morning, when elections were held, she was chosen to be a Vice-President again to serve on the Finance Committee, and to be one of five delegates to attend the upcoming National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.
Chandler's leadership was recognized regionally and nationally, too. In 1902 she was elected to the executive board of the New England Woman Suffrage Association at its Boston meeting and she is listed in the National American Woman Suffrage Association minutes, 1911–1914, as an honorary Vice-President and life member.
Even as her active engagement with what was now called the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association diminished in her 70s and 80s, Chandler continued to push for the right to vote, declaring in a 1909 newspaper: “I am a believer in full enfranchisement of women on equal terms with men. I am a citizen of the state; amenable to all the laws of the state; but am taxed without representation, contrary to the constitution of the United States. I therefore, demand the ballot, because I believe it to be right and just.” It took more than a decade but when she was finally able to exercise her right to vote, it also made the paper: “The many friends of Mrs. A. D. Chandler in her 91st year, were glad to see her at the polls on Tuesday to cast her first vote. She has always been an ardent worker and believer in woman suffrage.”
Her death on January 26, 1927, was recorded in Barton, and the couple and their children are buried at Pleasantview Cemetery in Orleans (the former Barton Landing).
National Woman Suffrage Association, Report of the Annual Washington Convention, volumes 16–28, printed at the Press of Charles Mann, Rochester, N.Y., 1884-1896.
National American Woman Suffrage Association, Proceedings, October 19 and 20 [1911, 43rd annual convention].
The History of Woman Suffrage, eds. Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, Vol. IV (1883–1900). [LINK]
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Papers, 1883-1927, MSC 144-146, Leahy Library, Vermont History Center, Barre, Vermont
Regional newspapers: Orleans County Monitor; St. Johnsbury Caledonian;Orleans Independent Standard; The Vermont Watchman; Brattleboro Reformer.
Boston Globe, May 29, 1902.
Vermont Census and Vital Records, Ancestry.com.
Walton's Vermont Register and Business Directory, 1891.
Walton's Vermont Register and Business Directory, 1892.