Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Jean MacAlpine, 1897-1978


By Karen Seehausen, independent historian

On March 5, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson arrived in New York City for a scheduled appearance at the Metropolitan Opera House. Although Wilson had voiced support for woman suffrage in 1918, the United States Senate had yet to pass the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Suffragists of the National Woman's Party (NWP) rallied outside the Opera House demanding passage of the Amendment. The number of pickets grew to 200. The police were assisted by soldiers and sailors and forty reserves in constructing a cordon and controlling the crowd. The protesters attempted repeatedly to break through the police barrier and the demonstration turned into a violent confrontation between them and the police. One newspaper reported: "Women and girls were bruised and trampled upon, their banners torn into shreds and their clothes and hats crumpled and dishevelled when the militant suffragists attempted to get to President Wilson with their appeals for recognition." Six of the demonstrators including leader Alice Paul and organizer Doris Stevens were arrested. Undaunted, the suffragists paraded through the streets into the night. Marching with them was Jean MacAlpine, a recent graduate of the University of Rochester.

Jean MacAlpine, daughter of Herbert and Addie Turpin MacAlpine, was born in 1897 and raised in Rochester, New York. Rochester was also home to Susan B. Anthony, who was profoundly instrumental in transforming the University of Rochester (UofR) into the coeducational institution Jean MacAlpine would attend. Susan B. Anthony was a champion of a woman's right to vote and to a college education. In 1893 four years before Jean was born, Helen Wilkinson became the first woman to be accepted as a regular but non-matriculating student at UofR. Helen's fees were paid by Anthony and friends of coeducation. In the following years, advocacy for educational opportunities for women at the UofR grew stronger. In 1898, the UofR Trustees voted to transition to a coeducational institution provided a "dowry" of $100,000.00 was raised. Two years later, the fund-raising committee reported it had raised only $40,000.00. In June 1900 the Trustees approved a resolution to admit women in September "upon the same terms and conditions as men, provided $50,000.00 is secured in good subscriptions by that time." Anthony, now 81 years old, solicited donations and pledges from her sister and friends. To guarantee a promised gift of $2,000.00 from a supporter, Anthony pledged an insurance policy on her life in that amount. The UofR opened its doors to women. When the 1900 fall term began, thirty-six women registered as students. Almost twenty years later, Jean MacAlpine graduated in the class of 1918. She was one of fifty-five women receiving a bachelor's degree.

In the years following graduation, Jean attended the New York School of Social Work and earned a master's degree from Columbia University. In December 1922 she married Clarence Heer, Uof R class of 1914. Early in her professional career, Jean worked as an employment manager for a garment business. In her mid-twenties, she was hired by the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). The NCLC was formed in 1904 to protect children in the workplace. When the Keating-Owens Act which in general prohibited interstate commerce of goods produced by children, was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1918, the NCLC campaigned for an amendment to the United States Constitution to "limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age." As a member of the Department of Public Information for the NCLC, Jean monitored public sentiment for and against the Federal Child Labor Amendment. She was a prolific author of articles, opinion pieces, and letters to editors of newspapers across the country, arguing for passage of the amendment and rebutting opposition. Jean also contributed to the "Snapshots from the Tenement" column in the NCLC's monthly publication, The American Child. The Federal Child Labor Amendment was passed by Congress in 1924 but only 28 of the required 36 states voted to ratify. In 1938, the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act provided the protections for which MacAlpine and the NCLC had advocated and interest in ratification of the amendment faded.

Jean MacAlpine Heer became recognized for her expertise and experience in labor standards and practices and for her ardent support for women in the workplace. In 1925 she was appointed director of the Employment Department of the Brooklyn Young Women's Christian Association. In an interview, Jean described her vision for the Employment Department: To protect the young women placed in jobs through the YMCA, the department will collect and maintain employer information pertaining to sanitary conditions, opportunity for promotion, vacation time and weekly hours and assured that "No girls will be sent out to employers who endeavor to lower the market rate of wages or whose positions are undesirable in any way." In 1927, Jean's husband, having received a PhD from Columbia University, joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An economist, Clarence Heer was an acknowledged expert in taxation and public finance. The couple's son, Nicholas was born in 1928. David followed in 1931.

Settled in North Carolina, Jean remained interested in social welfare programs and was active in the community of social workers. She served for many years as the Executive Secretary of the North Carolina Conference for Social Services and organized its annual meetings including that of April, 1944 entitled "Postwar Planning for Children & Youth."

Jean MacAlpine Heer died on June 12, 1978 at 80 years of age and is buried in Chapel Hill. Throughout her life, she maintained close ties to Rochester and to the University of Rochester as a promoter and benefactor.


"President and Taft Speak". The New York Times (New York, New York). 05 Mar 1919: p 1.

"President Woodrow Wilson speaks in favor of female suffrage".

Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment/National Archives.

"6 Anti-Wilson Suffragists Are Arrested Here". TheNew York Tribune (New York, New York). 05 Mar 1919: p 1, 4.

"Suffs Fight in Street to Burn Wilson Speech". The New York Herald (New York, New York). 05 Mar 1919: p 1-2.

New York State Birth Index,1881-1942, p 557.

1920 United States Federal Census. (Jean MacAlpine. Rochester Ward 6, Monroe, NY).

May, Arthur J. History of the University of Rochester. Chapter 13. "Enter the Ladies"

Commencement programs, 1918, Commencement programs (University of Rochester).

"Y.M.C.A. Rebuilds Job-Filling Work". The Standard Union (Brooklyn, New York). 25 October 1925: p 16.

Paul, Catherine A. Social Welfare History Project/National Child Labor Committee (website).

New York State Marriage Index, 1881-1967.

Heer, Jean MacAlpine. "Phrasing of Labor Amendment". Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota). Oct. 14, 1924: p 8.

--- "From the National Child Labor Committee's Viewpoint". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina). October 9, 1924: p 8.

"The American Child": Index. December 1923: no. 1-12. Index lists articles written by MacAlpine Heer.

"Mrs. Jean MacAlpine Heer Speaks to Italian Mothers". The Brooklyn Citizen (Brooklyn, New York). 23 Jan 1926: p 2.

Alexander, Catherine. "Two UNC Teachers Retire". The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) 21 Jun 1935: p 5.

"Clarence Heer, UNC professor, dies of cancer". The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina). 19 Sept 1987: p 29.

"Dr. Ryan Will Make Conference Address". The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, North Carolina). 2 Apr 1943:8.

"Social Service Conference Will Open Tomorrow". Ashville Citizen-Times (Ashville, North Carolina). 19 Apr 1944: p 8.

"Annual Social Service Meeting is Cancelled". The News and Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina). 27 Jan 1945: p 11

"Former Students Protest". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York) 02 June 1942: P 8

University of Rochester Alumni-Alumnae Review. Vol xii, no 4, p19. Photo

North Carolina, Death Indexes, 1908-2004

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