Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Emma Frances Adams, 1893-1969
By Lynn Cole
Writer, Florence, Italy
Suffragist, Director of National Women's Trade Union League, New York Chapter, activist, socialist;
Emma Frances Adams was born in Monrovia, California on January 16, 1893 to Elsie Louisa Willaughby of New Hampshire, and John E. Adams of Massachusetts—part of the historic Adams family. "Frankie" had four siblings: Elsie M., Raymond S., Adelaide L. and Louise. The Adamses were one of the first families to live in the township of Monrovia, California, which was established in 1886. Elsie W. Adams and Adelaide Adams Zilincar lived out their days there and are buried at Live Oak Cemetery in Monrovia.
Frankie Adams attended Los Angeles State Normal School, which is now the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating in 1914 in manual arts. She moved to New York in 1918 and roomed with friend Berta Marie Gage, also from California and the future wife of writer Floyd Dell. The two young women lived in an apartment in Greenwich Village on 11th Street near Union Square. Gage had left California after being indicted under the Sedition Act pursuant to the state's "Red-ban" for selling the Pacifist Book. She was let off with a fine.
As an activist, Adams worked on many different activities including directing a New York chapter for the National Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) that helped to educate and unionize women while advocating for progressive legislation for workers. The WTUL was headed by Margaret Robins Dreier with whom Ms. Adams became a very close friend. She also ran a free speech forum at the Church of the Ascension in New York with Rev. Percy Stickney Grant from 1918-1919 and was an active member of the National Woman's Party (NWP).
On March 4, 1919 Ms. Adams took part in the suffrage demonstration in New York organized by Alice Paul. The march set out peacefully from the NWP headquarters and made its way to the Metropolitan Opera House, where President Woodrow Wilson was giving a speech before he left to address the League of Nations in Europe. While Wilson spoke inside, NWP members copied down his words and sent the script to Elsie Hill, who was waiting outside to burn Wilson's words with a torch. Upon reaching the Opera House, the women were met with violence by a mob of sailors, soldiers, and police. The suffragists were beaten with clubs, knocked down, and trampled underfoot, leaving many unconscious, bleeding and bruised. According to the New York Herald, "The women fought like catamounts," asking to be arrested by "walking three paces apart, holding the purple white and gold high above their heads." Miss Emma Frances Adams of California was among the group of women who were taken and then released by the police. Floyd Dell reported on the protest and noted that the scene was violent, with him being injured when entering the fray in an attempt to rescue his new wife B. Marie Gage.
A few months later, Adams married Alexander Gumberg, a Russian-born Jewish-American socialist, on May 27, 1919. They met through Mrs. Robins Dreier, the wife of Col. Robert Robins. Gumberg was Secretary to Col. Robins for the American Red Cross working on US-Russia relations. The marriage was considered by friends as one of mutual respect for each other's interests and work. Frankie was said to have polished some of Gumberg's social roughness which helped him greatly in his ability to meet and connect with persons in upper society. The two shared many interests and held parties at their homes in New York and Connecticut. They were known to socialize with famous writers and politicians ranging from Trotsky to Goodrich. They bore no children. After her husband's death in 1939, she was said to have angered Gumberg's close friend Col. Robins when she reverted to her maiden name, Adams.
Frankie Adams seems to have been a dynamic, well-connected and educated woman who achieved many positive things for women but even in her Obituary, details of her life remain obscured under the shadow of her late husband, Alex Gumberg.
Adams passed away on June 19, 1969 at her home, 30 E. 9th Street, New York City.
Dell, Floyd "Homecoming: An Autobiography" (Farrar & Rinehart, 1933)
Libbey, James K. "Alexander Gumberg and Soviet-American Relations: 1917—1933" (University Press of Kentucky, 1977)
"Graduating Class" Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California, United States of America) Saturday, June 27, 1914 pg. 14
"Suffs in Battles" New York Herald (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) Wednesday, March 5, 1919, pg. 2
"Suffragists Say Police Hit Them," New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) Thursday, March 6, 1919, pg. 9
University of Washington Mapping American Social Movements Project, https://depts.washington.edu/moves/NWP_project_ch4.shtml#_edn23
"Frances Adams, 76, Financier's Widow" New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) June 19, 1969, Pg. 45
"Gumberg, 51, Financier is Dead" New York Times (New York, New York, New York, United States of America) May 31, 1939, Pg. 28
Baker, Steve, Monrovia City Historian "Monrovia Genealogy – John E. Adams Family"