Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mollie Ritchie Cole, 1863-1923
By Anna Assogba, Research Librarian, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Officer in Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association; Officer in Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government; Secretary of College Equal Suffrage League
Mollie Ritchie was born November 26, 1863, in Boston Massachusetts. Her parents, John and Mary Ritchie, were Irish immigrants, and she had two older brothers, John and Samuel. On May 11, 1887, she married Otto B. Cole, in Boston. At the time, Otto was working for the Signal Service Bureau, though he retired from the Bureau later that year and later on went into real estate. Their son, Winthrop Ritchie Cole, was born in Paris, France, on November 28, 1888. Mollie attended Radcliffe College in 1894-1896, though she did not graduate. In her private life, Mollie belonged to the Boston Appalachian Mountain Club (with her husband) and the American Folk-Lore Society. As part of her interest in folklore, Mollie did some translation work, including publishing a translation from Spanish of the religious play "Los Pastores" in 1906. In a description of former Radcliffe students, she was said to be "a brilliant linguist." She also did some photography, including contributing to the Sixteenth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Association in the fall of 1887. Later in life, she also took courses to continue her education, including a music course at the Harvard Summer School and teachers' courses at Boston University.
In 1900, Mollie played a role in the formation of the College Equal Suffrage League (CESL) with Maud Wood Park and Inez Haynes Gillmore. Caroline Lexow Babcock, who served as president of the New York College Equal Suffrage League and later on as executive secretary of the National College Equal Suffrage League, recalled that Mollie had been a co-founder of the CESL, though most accounts of the League's founding do not mention Mollie. She was elected secretary in 1902 and hosted the CESL meetings at her home on Boylston Street on more than one occasion. One of the early meetings of the League in 1901 held at Mollie's house was memorable not only for the appearance of a mouse who caused some distress to the attendees, but also because of the behavior of the invited male speaker. He had previously impressed one of the members by a speech in favor of woman's suffrage, but unfortunately, at this meeting, he ended up running on and on in a drunken, incoherent blather and eventually had to be escorted out by Otto Cole and Charles Park (Maud Wood Park's husband).
Mollie was one of the speakers at a February 20, 1901 hearing at the Massachusetts State House about giving women taxpayers voting rights in municipal elections. She began her address, "I favor the petition because, of all the suffrage measures brought forward, it seems most likely to appeal to men, since it is based on the common-sense business principle that those who pay the bills should have a voice in contracting the bills." Mollie was not a stranger to public speaking, as the previous year she had spoken about the work of women in Boston schools at a rally for the Public School Association in October and about the Public School Association at the Young Women's Political Club in December. She also spoke at another Massachusetts State House hearing for women's suffrage in March 1906, reading letters sent from the president of the Wyoming State Federation of Women's Clubs (women in Wyoming had been able to vote since 1869) and the president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
Along with other Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association members, Mollie wrote opinion pieces on woman's suffrage for the Boston Globe, from 1907 to 1908.
Mollie served in various capacities for the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association from 1886 to 1909, including director, clerk, secretary, auditor, a member of the Finance Committee, a member of the Committee on Industrial Relations Affecting Women and Children, and as chairman of the Legislation and Civics Committee.
Mollie also belonged to the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government (BESAGG), which had the goal of achieving woman's suffrage while creating better government. She served as recording secretary and as treasurer for the organization.
Mollie belonged to the New England Woman's Club for many years, including 1901 to 1909. Though the club was not focused on suffrage per se, many prominent Massachusetts woman's suffrage figures were also members of the club, and in 1901, Mollie spoke at the club on the following question: "Can women's influence be made practical and effective without the ballot?"
Mollie's husband died on June 5, 1917, in Boston, and Mollie herself passed away in 1923, in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
"1880 United States Federal Census - AncestryLibrary.Com," Accessed April 8, 2020.
"1900 United States Federal Census - AncestryLibrary.Com," Accessed April 8, 2020.
"A Great Week." The Woman's Journal 32, no. 8 (February 23, 1901): 60.
Anthony, Susan B., and Ida Husted Harper, eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 4. Rochester, N.Y.: Susan B. Anthony, 1902. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007120043.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. Alice Stone Blackwell to Ida M. Tarbell, December 12, 1908. Ida M. Tarbell Collection, 1890-1944, Allegheny College Pelletier Library. https://dspace.allegheny.edu/handle/10456/14304.
"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal 32, no. 11 (March 16, 1901): 87.
"To the Massachusetts Leagues." The Woman's Journal 31, no. 52 (December 29, 1900): 415.
Blackwell, Henry B. "Resolutions and Officers." The Woman's Journal 34, no. 45 (November 7, 1903): 356.
"Boston Notes." New York Times. September 15, 1906, sec. Saturday Review of Books.
Boston University Bulletin. Vol. 2, n.1, pt.5. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston University, 1913.
Cole, Mrs. Otto B. "Because They Need It-." Boston Daily Globe. February 10, 1907.
"Evolution Will Win-." Boston Daily Globe. July 21, 1907.
"There Ought to Be Only Equality." Boston Daily Globe. January 19, 1908.
Eskind, Andrew H., ed. International Photography: George Eastman House Index to Photographers, Collections, and Exhibitions. Enl. and Expanded version of the Index to American photographic collections, 3rd enl. ed. Vol. 3. New York: G.K. Hall, 1998. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015045694687.
"Former Weather Bureau Man, Otto B. Cole, Dead." Boston Daily Globe. June 6, 1917.
Gough, Priscilla, ed. Radcliffe College Alumnae Directory. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1931. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015051351057.
"Grows Smaller: Man Deteriorating, Says Rev Anna Shaw. Is Retrograding While New Woman Advances. Suffragists Applaud at Attleboro." Boston Daily Globe. October 22, 1904.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
"Harvard Summer School." Cambridge Tribune. July 5, 1913.
Hutchins, Emma. Emma Hutchins to Mrs. Algeo, June 22, 1911. Women's Studies Manuscript Collections from The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series 1: Woman's Suffrage, Part D: New England. Folder 99: Suffrage Organizations, Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government (BESAGG), Correspondence, 1905-19. ProQuest History Vault.
"In Behalf Of The Schools: Meeting in Ward 8--Col Bradley Says the Faulty Character of Buildings Fill Citizens with Dismay." Boston Daily Globe. October 30, 1900.
"In Literature: Achievements of Radcliffe Graduates, as Recounted in New England Magazine Article." Cambridge Tribune. January 2, 1909.
Lexow, Caroline. "The College Woman in the Suffrage Movement." The Key: Official Organ of Kappa Kappa Gamma 23, no. 3 (July 1960). https://wiki.kkg.org/images/2/2e/THE_KEY_VOL_23_NO_3_JUL_1906.pdf.
"Literary Notes." San Francisco Chronicle. March 17, 1907.
"Massachusetts Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal 36, no. 43 (October 28, 1905): 170-.
"Massachusetts Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal 37, no. 45 (November 10, 1906): 179.
"Massachusetts Annual Meeting." The Woman's Journal 38, no. 44 (November 2, 1907): 175-.
"Massachusetts Clubs and Leagues." Woman's Journal 33 (May 24, 1902): 168.
"Massachusetts Clubs and Leagues." The Woman's Journal 38, no. 22 (June 1, 1907): 87.
"Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980 - AncestryLibrary.Com." Accessed April 8, 2020.
"Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 - AncestryLibrary.Com," Accessed April 8, 2020.
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association Administrative Records. Women's Studies Manuscript Collections from The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series 1: Woman's Suffrage, Part D: New England. Folder 98v: Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, Records (mostly meeting minutes) Jan. 1902-Feb. 1911. ProQuest History Vault.
"Meeting of the Woman's Clubs." Boston Daily Globe. May 29, 1886.
"Members of the American Folk-Lore Society." The Journal of American Folklore 21, no. 82 (1908): 376-84.
"Miss Stoddard's Prize of $100: Presentation at the College Equal Sufrage [sic] League's Meeting--Mouse Caused Some Littlr [sic] Excitement." Boston Daily Globe. May 29, 1901.
"Officers of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association." The Woman's Journal 40, no. 4 (January 23, 1909): 14.
"Do American Woman Suffragists Approve the Methods of Their English Sisters?" Boston Daily Globe. July 19, 1907.
Page, Mary Hutcheson. Mary Hutcheson Page to Doris Stevens, October 21, 1915. Library of Congress and Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, Washington, D.C. National Woman's Party Papers, Part II: The Suffrage Years, 1913-1920, Series 1: Correspondence, 1891-1940: Section A, 1891-1915. ProQuest History Vault.
Park, Maud Wood. Notes on College Equal Suffrage League Organizational History. Women's Studies Manuscript Collections from The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series 1: Woman's Suffrage, Part D: New England; Maud May (Wood) Park, 1871-1955: Woman's Rights Collection (WRC), Subseries C. Suffrage and Women's Rights. Folder 175: College Equal Suffrage League (national, Boston, and college chapters). ProQuest History Vault.
Park, Maud Wood. Notes on Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government Organizational History. Women's Studies Manuscript Collections from The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Series 1: Woman's Suffrage, Part D: New England. Folder 94: Suffrage Organizations, Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government (BESAGG). ProQuest History Vault.
"Personal." Portland Daily Press. October 24, 1887. https://digitalmaine.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1249&context=pdp_1887.
Register of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Boston, Massachusetts: Appalachian Mountain Club, 1895.
Schultz, Jeffrey D., and Laura A. Van Assendelft, eds. Encyclopedia of Women in American Politics. The American Political Landscape Series. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1999.
Sprague, Julia A. History of the New England Women's Club from 1868 to 1893. Boston, MA: Lee & Shepard, 1894. http://www.aspresolver.com/aspresolver.asp?GILD;1000007340.
"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal 42, no. 13 (April 8, 1911): 110.
"State Correspondence." The Woman's Journal 39, no. 46 (November 14, 1908): 183.
"The Suffrage Hearing." The Woman's Journal 37, no. 9 (March 3, 1906): 35.
"U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 - AncestryLibrary.Com." Accessed April 10, 2020.
"U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 - AncestryLibrary.Com," Accessed April 10, 2020.
"Visit to New Customhouse." Boston Daily Globe. January 13, 1915.
"Women in the Colleges." The Woman's Journal 39, no. 22 (May 30, 1908): 86.
"Women Taxpayers' Hearing." The Woman's Journal 32, no. 9 (March 2, 1901): 65, 68.
"Women's Clubs and Club Women." The Woman's Journal 32, no. 50 (December 14, 1901).