Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Oreola Williams Haskell, 1875-1953
By Enoch Jemmott and Dakota Striso
Students, State University of New York at Cortland
President, Kings County Political Equality League; Chair, Press Bureau of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party; Chair, Press Bureau for the League of Women Voters
Oreola Williams Haskell was born on April 14, 1875 in Poultney, Vermont to Theodore Williams and Martha (Rees) Williams. Her father was a poet and an editor for the Associated Press. Her mother was a pioneering suffragist and charter member of the Interurban Woman Suffrage Council, an early suffrage coalition founded in New York City by suffrage leaders such as Carrie Chapman Catt. Williams grew up in New York City, graduating from Girls' High School in Brooklyn. She went on to attend Cornell University, earning distinction as class poet prior to graduating in 1897 with a degree in philosophy. She taught briefly in the public schools in Brooklyn before her marriage in 1901 to attorney Robert H. Haskell, whom she had first met while a student at Cornell. The couple had one daughter, Grace Vivian Haskell, born in 1907.
Like her mother, Haskell held numerous positions in women's organizations during her lifetime. She was an auditor and recording secretary for the New York City Federation of Women's Clubs. She also served as president of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Club, the Flatbush People's Political Equality League, and the Kings County Political Equality League. While carrying out her duties as an officer for the Interurban Suffrage Council—an organization that she and her mother helped establish in 1903—Williams accepted a position as head of the press bureau for the New York City Woman Suffrage Party and served in this capacity from 1915 to 1917.
A successful author, Haskell wrote poems, plays, short stories, and numerous articles on the topic of suffrage. Her writing appeared in a variety of contemporary magazines and newspapers, including Leslie's Weekly, McCall's, Woman's Journal, and the New York Times. Her most remembered work is Banner Bearers: Tales of the Suffrage Campaigns, published in 1920. The book is a fictional rendering of the 1915 and 1917 suffrage campaigns in New York. Comprising twenty-two sketches, Banner Bearers explores different aspects of the work accomplished by ordinary female activists—foot soldiers whose individual contributions made possible the collective goal of winning the vote. Many of the stories reflect the kind of work, routine and perhaps tedious, that the author was intimately familiar with herself. As the historian of women's suffrage Ida Husted Harper noted in an introduction to Banner Bearers, Haskell "speaks as a writer who through years of experience behind the scenes has witnessed the unfolding of a drama and realized its world significance."
Haskell died on September 7, 1953 in Brooklyn at 78.
Mary Chapman and Angela Mills, eds., Treacherous Texts: U.S. Suffrage Literature, 1846-1946 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 284.
Paul Buhle and Marie J. Buhle, The Concise History of Woman Suffrage (University of Illinois Press, 2005).
"Suffrage Tales," Cornell Alumni News (June 16, 1921), 460.
Oreola Williams Haskell, Banner Bearers: Tales of the Suffrage Campaigns (Geneva, New York: W.F. Humphrey, 1920).
John W. Leonard, ed., Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 (New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914), 370. [LINK]
John W. Leonard, ed., Who's Who in New York State Vol. 3 (New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1907), 638.
"Oreola Williams Haskell," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oreola_Williams_Haskell
Accessed January 15, 2020. The Wikipedia entry for Haskell provides an uncommon level of insight into her background and offers an array of sources useful to anyone interested in her life.