Biographical Sketch of Janet Livingstone Fotheringham

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Janet Livingstone Fotheringham, 1896-1938


By Heather C. Plaisance, Head of Reference and Research Services: Edith Garland Dupré Library, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA

Janet Livingstone Fotheringham was born in July 1896 in Buffalo, New York. She was one of seven children born to Scottish immigrants, Robert Monteith and Janet Hutchinson Fotheringham. While she lived in Buffalo most of her life, her family resided briefly in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and later in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. There is no record that Fotheringham ever married or had children. She died on May 19, 1938, in Grand Island, New York at age 41.

In 1917, members of the National Woman's Party began picketing outside the White House demanding women be granted the right to vote. In July, Fotheringham, a member of the party's Buffalo district, traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the demonstrations. On July 14, 1917, she and fifteen other suffragists were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and obstruction of traffic. Three days later, the group was found guilty. After refusing to pay the $25 fine, Fotheringham and the women were sentenced to sixty days at the Occoquan Workhouse, a federal prison in Lorton, Virginia.

News of the group's arrest traveled across the country as this was the first time women of their social position had been committed to a penal institution such as Occoquan. Family members who visited the suffragists were so appalled by the conditions the women were being forced to live under that they appealed to President Woodrow Wilson for their release. On July 20, after only serving three days of their sentence, President Wilson pardoned the group and they were immediately released. Of her arrest, Fotheringham said, "If that is the only way to get our amendment across, we're willing to go to jail!"

Little is known about Fotheringham's life prior to and following her arrest. She attended the Sargent School for Physical Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts and graduated in 1918. Following her graduation, Fotheringham enrolled at the newly created Johns Hopkins University's School of Hygiene and Public Health. After completing her studies, she returned to Buffalo where she was employed as a physical education teacher. She was a member of the American Physical Education Association. In Buffalo city directories, dated 1925 to 1937, Fotheringham is listed as a Christian Science practitioner.

Fotheringham was not the only suffragist in her family. Her mother served as Chairman for the Buffalo district of the National Woman's Party. Like Janet, her older sister Margaret was also a member of the National Woman's Party. On August 23, 1917, Margaret was arrested for picketing at the White House.

A photograph of Janet Fotheringham is included in the Library of Congress' Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party Collection.


"Another Fotheringham girl nabbed at White House and has ride in patrol wagon." Buffalo Courier, August 24, 1917, p. 6. (Website).

"Buffalo girl gets 60 days in Workhouse for part in militants' picketing." Buffalo Courier, July 18, 1917, p. 5. (Website).

"Buffalo "suff" to renew picket job at Capital." The Buffalo Times, July 22, 1917, p. 17. (Website).

Cullen-DuPont, Kathryn. (2019). "The Trials of Alice Paul and Other National Woman's Party Members: 1917." Accessed December 13, 2019.

The Johns Hopkins University Circular: School of Hygiene and Public Health. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, 1918: p. 1105.

"List of members, 1918." (1918). American Physical Education Review 23 (1): 547.

"Teacher may explain case." The Buffalo Enquirer, September 19, 1917. (Website).

"This time Margaret Fotheringham is jailed." The Buffalo Times, August 24, 1917, p. 2. (Website).

"With the travelers." The Buffalo Enquirer, May 18, 1918, p. 9. (Website).

back to top