Biographical Sketch of Dorothy Ibbotson Spofford

Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Dorothy Ibbotson Spofford, 1897-1973


By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Dorothy Ibbotson was born in New York State in 1897. We find her first in the 1910 census for Brooklyn, New York, living with her parents, Henry C. and Grace P. Ibbotson, the second of six children. She was 13 years old, attending school, and her father was a retail dealer in stoves. The family had an immigrant, live-in servant.

No marriage record seems to have survived, but Dorothy married William B. Spofford and she was referred to as Mrs. Dorothy Spofford when she served as a banner bearer for a New York City suffrage parade in August 1918 sponsored by the National Woman's Party.

In 1918 the Spoffords moved to Chicago where William began a long stint of editing the Episcopalian social justice journal, The Witness. Founded in 1917, The Witness was the church's voice for peace and justice and continued publishing until 2006. The 1920 census recorded the couple with their newborn, oldest child, Marcia. William was a clergyman and in 1925 he served as rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chicago; Dorothy had no recorded occupation.

By 1930 the Spofford family lived in Demarest, in Bergen County, New Jersey where William ministered another Episcopal parish. William took on additional responsibilities and in 1935 he was serving as the Executive Secretary of the Church League for Industrial Democracy and he testified in Washington, D.C. in support of the National Labor Relations Act—often known as the Wagner Act. In 1936 he took over as rector of Christ Church (Episcopal) in Middletown, NJ and continued as editor of The Witness. For his staunch support of industrial unionism and his socially-engaged religious practice, William Spofford was frequently cited in investigations of "Communist Activities" by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In a July 1953 hearing, "Investigation of Communist Activities in the New York City Area—Part 7," his name appeared 13 times.

Unfortunately we can find only scant information on Dorothy Spofford's community involvement and nothing on her political engagement after her 1918 suffrage parade. In 1932 she was helping to lead a Girl Scout troop in Demarest, NJ. She and her husband retired to Tunkhannock, PA in 1947. Her husband passed away in October 1972 and she died in Tunkhannock in February 1973.


The Suffragist, 6:29 (Aug. 10, 1918) identifies Mrs. Dorothy Spofford as a banner bearer in an upcoming suffrage march in New York City.

Federal manuscript censuses for Brooklyn, 1910; Chicago, 1920; Demarest, NJ, 1930.

"Demarest Notes," The Record (Hackensack, NJ), 10 June 1932, p. 10.

Red Bank (NJ) Register, 7 May 1936; "Middletown Village, 17 July 1947, p. 5.

Episcopal News Service, "The Witness cases publication after almost 90 years," accessed online at

"Statement of Rev. William B. Spofford, Executive Secretary of the Church League for Industrial Democracy," accessed online at;ed=2ahUKEwjg4ZORuPzpAhWGrp4KHR0zCzYQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Church%20League%20for%20Industrial%20Democracy%22%20spofford&f=false.

"Investigation of Communist Activities in the New York City Area-Part 7" Hearing Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, July 8, 1953. Accessible online at

"Rev. William B. Spofford Dead; Witness Editor and Labor Ally," New York Times, 12 Oct. 1972, p. 50.

"Dorothy G. Spofford of Tunkhannock Dies," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 10 Feb. 1973, p. 13.

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