Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Haryot Holt Dey, 1857-1950
Also known as Hattie Hamblin before her marriage
By Chelsea Gibson, Visiting Assistant Professor, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
Editor of The Women's Club Magazine (official organ of the General Federation of Women's Clubs). President of the Woman's Press Club of New York (1912-22). Head of the Press Department, Empire State Campaign Committee (1913-1914)
Hattie Hamblin was born on February 7, 1857 in Niles, Michigan to Henry Hope Hamblin, an agent for the Michigan Railroad, and Anna Maria Cook, a native of New York. She had one sister, Ellena, who died in infancy in 1853.
At age 19, Hattie married William Cahoon Jr., an insurance agent, in the town of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1876. The couple eventually had three children. During her time in Little Rock, Hattie began her writing career after selling a few stories to the Chicago Herald in 1886. She quickly combined her interest in writing with suffrage activism, helping to found the Woman's Chronicle in 1888, a pro-suffrage newspaper that she edited with Kate Cunningham and Mary B. Brooks.
Some time in the 1890s she divorced Cahoon and moved to New York City. She married the author Frederick Van Rensselaer Dey in April 1898 in Manhattan. Frederick was a graduate of Columbia Law School but eventually made a career as a Dime novelist, publishing over one thousand "Nick Carter" stories. The two remained married until April 1922 when Frederick took his own life at the Hotel Brotzell in New York City.
From at least 1886, Hattie eschewed her birth name for the assumed name "Haryot Holt." While married to Cahoon, she sometimes published as "Mrs. Haryot Holt Cahoon," and after her marriage to Dey she always published as "Haryot Holt Dey." She seems to have adopted this name completely, not just as a nom de plume. For example, New York Voting records in the 1920s list her name as "Haryot Holt Dey."
While in New York, Dey flourished as a writer, and eventually became the editor of the women's page of The Recorder, the associate editor of The Woman's Home Companion, and the editor of The Woman's Club Magazine and the General Federation Magazine. Her writing appeared in many other publications including Collier's Weekly and the New Ideas Woman's Magazine.
Dey was a very proud clubwoman, and was a member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and the Woman's Press Club (of which she was president from 1912-1922), among others. She often wrote about the history of women's clubs and saw them as a vital source of women's power and an essential component of the women's rights movement. Dey clearly believed that empowering women would positively impact society. She wrote in 1914 that "the awakening of women is a spiritual awakening... White slavers are being convicted. Prisons are being reformed. Mothers are being pensioned. Orphan asylums are being abolished. Food is being purified. Honesty has become the fashion. What do we women want the ballot for? We answer, are we not creative, constructive in our thought?"
As a wife and mother, Dey often wrote about family life. She valued motherhood, but pushed back against leaders who blamed women for not fulfilling their maternal role by having many children. She also took umbrage with Dr. Charles William Eliot, president of Harvard University, for arguing that women needed to have eight children each. Instead of blaming women, she argued that modern life was making it difficult to raise a good family. She targeted the stair-less modern flat as an especially egregious modern addition to family life, writing in 1911 that "When we had stairs and doors we had thrift and prayers and children, hospitality and heirlooms. Without stairs and doors we have the tendency toward nerves, divorces, profanity, and race suicide." Perhaps due to her own divorce, Dey also proposed in 1911 a seven-year "Marriage Lease" to reduce divorce rates, the idea being that a lease would make marriage less pressure-filed and encourage mutual respect.
In 1913, Dey joined the Empire State Campaign Committee, which was an effort to unite the various suffrage groups in New York State in preparation for a new 1915 vote on suffrage. In 1914, the committee set out to organize press and other agitational programs. Dey was named the head of the Press Department, a position she shared with Eva Ward until Rose Young replaced them both. Dey and Ward's duties were to provide newspapers with weekly propaganda bulletins and other suffrage news or send page plates. The Press Department eventually had 214 volunteers who sent out over 3,000 page plates and oversaw pro-suffrage publications in twenty-five languages. By supplying newspapers with pro-suffrage content and contradicting anti-suffrage arguments, the Press Department helped cultivate suffrage support in mainstream newspapers across the state. New York's 191`5 vote was unsuccessful, but in 1917 New York did approve woman suffrage, a key victory enroute to the final ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920.
After the 19th amendment, Dey continued her brand of maternalist activism. She supported universal disarmament after World War I, and later became a member of the International Sunshine Society.
She died at the age of 93 on June 17, 1950 in Stamford, Connecticut.
Carrie Chapman Catt, "Empire State Campaign Committee Report, 1914" https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2018/10/08/empire-state-campaign-committee-report-1914/
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. New York: J. J. Little & Ives Company, 1922. 473. [LINK]
Haryot Holt Dey, "Mrs. Croly's Club Life" in Memories of Jane Cunningham Croly, "Jenny June." New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904.
"Mrs. Haryot Dey, Author, Dies at 93." New York Times, 17 June 1950, 8.
"'Marriage Lease' is Offered as a Sure Divorce Cure" The Inter Ocean (Chicago), 5 March 1911, 1.
"Finds Women Awakening," The Courier, 20 August 1914, 4 [reprinted from New York Evening Post].