Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mabel (Mrs. Henry W.) Cobb, 1881-1945
By Christine Cloonan, who learned about this project through the Boston Women's Heritage Trail. A graduate of Bowdoin College, Christine has many ties to the State of Maine and is honored to tell the stories of its suffragists.
Mrs. H.W. Cobb was born Mabel Benner in 1881 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. While she had ties to Maine given her father's birth in the state, she did not live in Maine until after her marriage to Henry Woodbury Cobb in 1911. This was the first marriage for both Henry and Mabel; the two were teachers and married in Boston. Given her profession, it is unsurprising that some of Mrs. Cobb's involvement in the state suffrage association related to teaching in the suffrage schools. In January 1917, the suffrage campaign closed the school it had been running in Portland and took to establishing schools throughout the state. Courses taught at the school included, but were not limited to, Suffrage History and Argument, Money Raising and Parliamentary Law. With more than $1,200 raised and 100 volunteers, the suffragists planned to expand with a school in every one of the 16 counties. By April, a couple of months after the resolution signed in Augusta, a school had been established in Lewiston, headed by Mrs. Cobb.
The support for women's suffrage was a part of Governor Charles Milliken's inaugural address on January 4, 1917. It was reported that he "said that he felt that the submission to the voters of a constitutional amendment for equal suffrage should no longer be delayed.". Less than a month later, on February 1, over 1,000 women, with jonquils and crimson roses to demonstrate their divide on the issue, crowded into the State House for the Suffrage Hearing. Leaders from both sides spoke, including the head of the Maine Suffrage Association. President of the Augusta Suffrage Association, Mrs. H.W. Cobb was also present.
Soon thereafter, on February 23, Governor Milliken, surrounded by a select handful of individuals, which included Mrs. H.W. Cobb (also referenced as Mabel B. Cobb), signed a resolve to put the proposed amendment, known as Maine Amendment 1, the Women's Suffrage Measure, on the ballot for a special election that September. The Republican Journal reported that Milliken signed the resolution using three gold stub pens with ebony handles. Each pen was used for a portion of his name and each one subsequently given to a suffragist. Milliken told the people lining the corridors of the State House that "the women of Maine had given a splendid example of how a campaign should be conducted and hoped this was the initial step in the adoption of equal suffrage in Maine."
In the special election in September 1917, the Women's Suffrage Measure was defeated with over 38,000 voters (65%) against the amendment. While not in their favor, this vote kept the suffragists on the campaign trail and Mrs. Cobb stayed the course. In 1919, she was a part of the Legislative Committee formed to introduce a bill for the Presidential suffrage. In November 1919 the Maine state legislature ratified the 19th Amendment and by August 1920 the Amendment had won the approval of the necessary 36 states. Maine women had their first opportunity cast votes in the presidential election in November 1920.
Mabel Cobb predeceased her husband. She died in 1952 and he died in 1968. Despite their ties to the East Coast and Maine, the Cobbs spent their later years on the West Coast. Both are buried in the Oak Park Cemetery in Claremont, CA.
Maine Amendment 1, Women's Suffrage Measure (September 1917)
Find-a-Grave entry for Henry W. Cobb
Ida Husted Harper, ed., History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6 (1922) [LINK to Maine State Report]
Signing of Women Suffrage Proclamation, 1917. Maine Memory Network.
Results from Bing Search "Mrs. Henry W. Cobb Maine Suffrage"
The Bath Independent Newspaper. April 21, 1917. Online.
"Governor Carl E. Milliken." The Republican Journal. Belfast, Maine. Volume 89, Number 2. January 11, 1917. Page 1. Online database: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78000873/1917-01-11/ed-1/seq-1/>
"The Republican Journal" The Republican Journal. Belfast, Maine. Volume 89, Number 4. January 25, 1917. Page 4. Online database: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78000873/1917-01-25/ed-1/seq-4/>
"Suffrage Hearing at Augusta," The Republican Journal. Belfast, Maine. Volume 89, Number 6. February 8, 1917. Page 1. Online database: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78000873/1917-02-08/ed-1/seq-1/>
"Wednesday, February 28, 1917," The American. Ellsworth, Maine. Volume LXIII, Number 9. February 28, 1917. Page 4. Online database: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022374/1917-02-28/ed-1/seq-4/>
"Gov. Milliken Signs the Suffrage Bill." The Republican Journal. Volume 89, Number 7. March 8, 1917. Page 7. Belfast, Maine. Online database: Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.<https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn78000873/1917-03-08/ed1/seq-7/>