Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lydretta Rice, 1878-1905
By Elizabeth Cunningham and Olivia Stone, students, Rosemont College
Lydretta Rice was born on June 21, 1878, in Pennsylvania to Abbie Kelly Blaker (1850-1917) and William Harrison Rice, (1839-1885) who married in 1877. Although Harrison Rice, as he was known, died of pneumonia in 1885, the family was left well-off and Abbie B. Rice and her daughters Lydretta and Maud (1881-1965), became prominent reformers in Newtown, Pennsylvania in the late 1890s.
The Rice women all belonged to the Society of Friends. Both Lydretta and Maud attended the George School, a Quaker institution. At the age of 18, Lydretta became involved in the Newtown Friends Association, eventually serving as its corresponding secretary. She also sat on the Junior Friends Association of Newtown's Executive Committee. Her many contributions to these groups are well documented in the Friends' Intelligencer.
Around the same time Rice also became active in the local temperance movement through the Loyal Temperance Legion of Bucks County. She held several offices including corresponding secretary, recording secretary, and press superintendent. She was a frequent speaker for the organization and in 1901 was selected to address the state annual meeting on the question "Shall the State, County, and Local Alumni Associations be encouraged?" As a socially prominent woman, Rice's activities for the LTL were often covered by the Bucks County Gazette.
Rice also participated with her mother and sister in the Equal Suffrage League of Newtown. In 1904 she addressed the ninth annual convention on the topic "The Four Suffrage states." She was secretary of the Pennsylvania state suffrage organization when she died on July 2, 1905 of typhoid. Lydretta was buried in the Rice family plot in Doylestown Cemetery alongside her father. Her untimely passing was commemorated by the Newtown Friends Association, the Bucks County Temperance Legion yearly convention, and at the 1906 NAWSA Annual Meeting.
Following her death, Lydretta Rice's mother and sister remained devoted suffrage workers. Both women received considerable press attention by local papers including the Bucks County Gazette and the Bristol Daily Courier which provide a wealth of details about their activities. Abbie B. Rice held the presidency of the Equal Suffrage League of Newtown from 1901 until her death in 1917 when she was succeeded by her daughter Maud Rice Stuckert. Stuckert organized the Bucks County Woman Suffrage Party during the 1915 amendment ratification drive and became head of the Bucks County League of Women Voters after passage of the nineteenth amendment, a position she occupied for two decades. Stuckert attended Swarthmore College, graduating in 1903, and she served as a teacher and principal in the years before her marriage. She maintained a particular interest in women's oversight of the schools. Stuckert was elected to the Newtown school board and became the first woman to head the Bucks County School Directors' Association in 1924.
The Rices' history of activism reflects the links between Quakerism, reform, and woman suffrage in Pennsylvania that continued well into the latter half of the twentieth-century. That their family home in Newtown, Pennsylvania is still known today as the Abbie B. Rice House is an enduring testimony to their influence on the town's political life for over six decades.
Rice [Harrison], Friends Intelligencer, January 24, 1885, p. 794
"Newtown, Pa" Friends Intelligencer, May 16, 1896, 323
"LTL Convention, " Carlisle (PA) Evening Herald, June 28, 1897, 4.
"Annual Suffrage Convention," Bucks County (PA) Gazette, June 9, 1898, 1.
"George School Notes," Friends' Intelligencer, April 22, 1899, 311.
"Convention to Last Four Days, Pittsburg Daily Post, June 23, 1901, 8.
Untitled Article, Bucks County (PA) Gazette, June 13, 1901, 3.
"Equal Suffrage Convention," Bucks County (PA) Gazette, June 2, 1904, 2.
"Rice," Friends Intelligencer, July 15, 1905, 446.
"Temperance Legion Annual convention, Bucks County (PA) Gazette, November 15, 1905, 2.
"Resolutions, " Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meetings of the National American Woman Suffrage Association 1906 , 79
"Suffragists Organize for Campaign in Bucks County," Bristol (PA) Daily Courier, May 27 1915, 1.
Leonard, John W., " Maud Rice Stuckert," Woman's Who's Who of America, A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, 793
Abbie Blaker Rice, Friends Intelligencer, June 30, 1917, 413. [LINK]
Untitled Article, The Evening News (Harrisburg) May 28, 1924, 6.#x200e"Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Archive of Abbie B. Rice and Maud R. Stuckert. The Dobkin Family Collection of Feminism. https://www.dobkinfeminism.org/item/D8013EF2-E441-E541-B0A9-4A8E8EFECB1A/
Bender, Amanda "Research for the League of Women Voters" League of Women Voters of Bucks County, July 2019. http://mx.lwvbucks.org/sites/default/files/research_-_amanda_bender.docx