Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Dorothy Louise McCrea Mead, 1876-1944
By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian
Dorothy Louise McCrea Mead, chair of the Ohio Congressional Union, later the National Woman's Party (NWP), was born in New York on December 31, 1876. Mead also served on the National Advisory Council of the NWP. She was one of two daughters of Franklin and Annette Maxson McCrea. Dorothy McCrea married Cyrus E. Mead on November 10, 1898, in Chicago. Cyrus Mead, the inventor of the Mead rotatory valve engine used in automobiles, died from injuries in a car accident in January 1914. Widowed with four children to rear, Mead carved out time to manage a large farm outside Dayton, Ohio, and to be active in the woman's suffrage movement.
Because of Mead's exceptional organizational skills, Alice Paul asked her to be in charge of the publicity bureau for the Congressional Union's convention held in December 1915 in Washington, D.C. While in D.C. Mead discussed the work of the CU before a local woman's club on October 20, 1915. She also visited President Woodrow Wilson's cousin Helen Woodrow Bones and garnered an invitation to an informal dinner at the White House.
Mead returned to Dayton, Ohio, where she orchestrated mass meetings and receptions during November 1915. She met opposition from the Woman's Suffrage Party of Greater Cleveland whose members opposed the CU policies. Mead organized and assigned Ohio CU members to meet with U.S. congressmen in their district. In November Mead reported to Alice Paul the results that ranged from an affirmative "Yes" that they would support the suffrage amendment before Congress to a resounding "No, No, No." Ohio's Republican U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding (future president of the United States) made a noncommittal statement by telling CU members that he wanted to leave the solution of the suffrage question to his party.
In February 1916 Alice Paul urged Dorothy Mead to pressure Ohio's Democrat Congressman Warren Gard, an antisuffragist, into reversing his decision regarding the suffrage amendment before Congress. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Gard had recently voted to send the amendment back to subcommittee and to postpone work on it until December. Despite the pressure placed on him, Gard remained opposed to woman's suffrage.
In April 1916 twenty-four suffragists, including Mead, traveled through western states where women had the right to vote. As the "Suffrage Special" train car departed Union Station in Washington, D.C., approximately five thousand women cheered amid fanfare provided by two buglers, the singing of "America" and "Onward Christian Soldiers" and the Navy Yard Band playing the "Marseillaise." The "Suffrage Special" made stops in Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Utah. During their thirty-eight-day tour, the suffragists gave speeches, distributed literature, and sold subscriptions to the Suffragist newspaper. They asked the franchised women in the West to continue to urge their U.S. congressmen to support the national woman's suffrage amendment. The "Suffrage Special" returned to D.C. on May 16, 1916. One month later Mead tendered her resignation, stating that she did not have the time and strength to carry on the work in Ohio.
After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Dorothy Mead joined the Women's Disarmament Committee that supported world disarmament following World War I. She and other members pledged to arrange state conferences to garner support for the effort. In 1927 Mead and her daughter Barbara traveled to Europe. Prior to her death Mead had become a writer, submitting articles relating to her overseas travels to the New York Herald Tribune and a Dayton, Ohio, newspaper. In 1928 she was on a planning committee to organize a newspaper women's convention held in Dayton, Ohio. Between 1940 and 1944 Mead moved from Washington, D.C. to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where she died on September 27, 1944. She was buried beside her husband in Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.
SOURCES: Albuquerque (New Mexico) Morning Journal, 14 April 1916. Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ), 18 April 1916. Celina (Ohio) Democrat, 9 January 1914. Cincinnati (Ohio) Enquirer, 24 October 1915. Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 9 April 1916 and 20 March 1921. Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware), 28 September 1944. National Woman's Party Papers: The Suffrage Years, 1913-1920, Series I, Reels 20-24, 26. 29, and 36. Seattle (Washington) Star, 29 April 1916. Tacoma (Washington) Times, 27 April 1916. Topeka (Kansas) State Journal, 8 April 1916. Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), 14 and 18 October 1915. Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 13 October 1915. Wilmington News-Journal (Wilmington, Ohio), 21 September 1928.
Ancestry.com, Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920, accessed 15 July 2017. Death Certificate, State of Delaware, accessed from Family Search website, 1 October 2017. Celina (Ohio) Democrat, 9 January 1914. Washington Herald, 14 October 1915.
Death Certificate, State of Delaware, accessed from Family Search website, 1 October 2017. FindAGrave #96076315 and #96076288, accessed from Ancestry.com on 15 July 2017.
Dorothy Mead to Alice Paul, letters, 5 and 15 November 1915, National Woman's Party Papers (NWPP), reel 20. Dorothy Mead to Alice Paul, report, 26 November 1915, NWPP, reel 21. (4) Alice Paul to Dorothy Mead, letter, 18 February 1916, NWPP, Reel 24. Mead to Paul, letter, 8 June 1916, NWPP, Reel 29.