Biographical Sketch of Henrietta Speke-Seeley

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Henrietta Speke-Seeley, 1866-1939

By Bess Oliver, student, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York

Henrietta Speke-Seeley was born in 1866 in England, and later immigrated to the Bronx, New York, in 1887. Although she came to the United States at the age of twenty, she would go back to Europe to study voice and piano at the Munich Conservatory of Music and at other European Institutions. In 1894 she married Storrs Henry Seeley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She demonstrated an aptitude towards leadership from the start, leading a variety of musical groups that catered to women's empowerment and suffrage. In addition, she dedicated a large majority of her public life to the musical education of New York City at large. When Mrs. Speke-Seeley was 31, in April of 1898, she assisted a Miss Irene Margaret Brown as a soprano with a Shakespeare song recital at the Church of the Eternal Hope. In 1905, Henrietta was the President of the Saint Cecilia Club and Musical Director of the Trinity Congregational Church. The Saint Cecilia Club was a choral organization of 135 women. In addition to her involvement in these organizations, she served as the editor of the Music Review Column in The Musical Monitor, the official magazine of the National Federation of Musical Clubs. She gave critiques on new piano and organ exercise books, and discussed recent musical happenings.

As early as 1907, Henrietta spoke for the Bronx Republican Club on “The Unifying Influence of Music” in the Saint Cecilia Club and the Congress of States Societies on “The Power of Music.” In the ensuing years, she gave a number of free music lectures at area high schools and was called upon by the Board of Education to give music lectures for adults in 1909. As President of the Bronx County Woman's Republican Club, she spoke at a luncheon held at the Concourse Plaza Hotel in 1924 and discussed recent political developments in Washington D.C. In addition to the number of activities Mrs. Speke-Seeley was already involved in, she served as a member of the Board of Management of the Y.W.C.A. of New York in 1927. The Bronx Y.W.C.A. girls held a performance the proceeds of which were allocated towards the expense of sending delegates of the Bronx Branch to the Girl Reserve Conference. Henrietta once wrote that community singing was being popularized in all parts of the city.

While all of her activities thus far had undeniably promoted the advancement of women and girls in society, her participation in suffrage movements was also exceptional. She served as an officer of the City Woman Suffrage Party under Carrie Chapman Catt, the State Campaign Chairman, and also the President from 1900-1904, and again from 1914-1919, when the 19th Amendment was passed. Officers helped to organize and carry out a number of events and efforts aimed at women's suffrage, such as meetings, canvassing, leaflet distribution, speeches, and more. In 1939 Mrs. Henrietta Speke-Seeley passed away at her home of heart disease. She was 73 years old.


“Society Notes.” The New York Times, April 14, 1898.

“F. Trubee Davison Attacks Vanderlip.” The New York Times, March 30, 1924.

“Other Events in Society.” The New York Times, May 08, 1927. Accessed March 29, 2018.

“Sunday, January 11, 1931.” The New York Times, January 11, 1931.

Annual Report of the Supervisor of Lectures to the Board of Education. The New York Public Library, 1908.

The American Club Woman Magazine, Volume 11-14. March, 1916.

The Musical Monitor 10 (1921): 498. Accessed April 6, 2018. The Musical Monitor 11 (1922): 312. Accessed April 6, 2018.

“United States Census, 1930.” FamilySearch. Accessed 29 March, 2018.

Greater New York. Congregationalist and Christian World (1901-1906), May 27, 1905. Accessed April 6, 2018.

“Arrested as Swindler.” The New York Times, October 24, 1910. Accessed March 29, 2018.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Mathilda Joslyn Gage. History of Woman Suffrage. 1848-1861. New York: Arno Press, 1969. [LINK]

“National Federation of Musical Clubs.” The Musical Monitor, 1915. Accessed May 24, 2018.

back to top