Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Harriet M. (Mrs. W.W.) Emmart, 1869-1939
By Kaitlin Nowlin, MA; Independent Historian
Harriet “Hattie” M. Emmart (née Frist) was born to John and Emily M. Frist in Baltimore, Maryland on July 10, 1869. She was educated in the public school system and later attended the Women's Medical College of Baltimore. According to the The Extinct Medical Schools of Baltimore, Maryland, she completed her education and began practicing medicine in 1890. A Baltimore Sun article printed in April 1915 referred to her as, “an educated woman of progressive ideas.”
On June 7, 1893, she married the young architect William Wirt Emmart, later known as the Dean of Baltimore Architects, at the home of her parents. By 1900, Hattie and William had two daughters, Dorothy and Emily, and while the specific date is difficult to pinpoint, it is clear that she ceased her medical career around this time. Despite her retirement from medicine, Hattie remained committed to the education of female physicians and is noted to have spoken at the commencement banquet for her alma mater in 1905. Her husband's obituary, written in 1949, refers to her as, “one of Baltimore's pioneer women physicians.” Years later, Hattie's youngest daughter Emily Walcott Emmart Trueblood followed in her mother's footsteps to become a doctor and well-known scientist for the National Institutes of Health.
Following her retirement from medicine, Hattie dedicated herself to a life of civic and charitable endeavors. She was active in many of the city's most prominent women's clubs, the most significant among them being the Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore, the Woman Suffrage League of Maryland, the State Equal Franchise League of Maryland, and the Arundell Club. Throughout her career she held leadership positions in all of these organizations and she attended many state and regional conventions in this capacity.
While her work in the suffrage movement covered a broad range of topics, it appears that Hattie's efforts were most often devoted to education. An October 1916 Evening Sun article entitled “Suffragists to Open School,” announces that the Equal Suffrage League was establishing a school to train suffragists and that Hattie was tasked with recruiting the pupils.
When Congress finally approved the 19th amendment and sent it to the states for ratification in June 1919, Hattie was once again at the forefront of these efforts, personally donating to the ratification campaign. In October 1920, Cecilia Streett Waters and Mary D. Randolph registered and were granted the right to vote in Baltimore. Judge Oscar Leser, who opposed the 19th Amendment, sought to have their names stricken from the record by bringing a suit to the court of common pleas. The case eventually rose to the level of the Supreme Court of the United States and resulted in Leser v. Garnett, which is known today as the case that solidified the the validity of the 19th amendment and women's right to vote. Hattie Emmart was named in the case as an intervening defendant.
Following the outcome of the Supreme Court case, Hattie continued to devote her life to the service of her community. In 1937, she was elected the president of the Arundell Club. She died in the home of her daughter, Dorothy Emmart Dempster, on December 9, 1939 after a protracted illness. She is buried alongside her husband and several other family members at Louden Park Cemetery in Baltimore.