Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Helen Worman Arny (Macan), 1881-1957
By Michelle Moravec, Rosemont College
Helen Worman Arny was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1881 to Louis Weist Arny, a successful manufacturer of leather goods, and Linetta (Nettie) Worman Arny in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was educated at the Baldwin School and attended Bryn Mawr College from 1900 to 1905. Arny married George Chase Macan, Jr., a widower with two children, on June 9, 1915. The couple had a daughter named Linette. Helen Arny Macan died on March 25, 1957 in Connecticut.
Arny left her job at the College Settlement of Philadelphia to take up the suffrage cause for the year prior to Pennsylvania's 1915 suffrage referendum. As a paid organizer, she worked primarily in Blair County, mostly in and around Altoona. There she staffed suffrage booths at local fairs and delivered talks to various civic groups, at which she apparently excelled. One newspaper report describes her as "a powerful and convincing talker." Arny was also a capable organizer and was credited with increasing "the local force" in Altoona.
Arny also gave open air addresses, including one outside the Scranton works aimed at converting factory men to the cause, during the 1914 PWSA annual meeting. Arny, who served on the entertainment committee for this meeting, had the distinction of appearing in a suffrage cartoon on the front page of the pro-suffrage Scranton Republican. In addition to her work in the south central portion of Pennsylvania, Arny was also active in Philadelphia, speaking during an event that stationed suffragists at the four corners of Philadelphia's city hall to address passers-by.
Perhaps because of her settlement work, Arny had an interest in immigrant populations. She argued that advocates of woman suffrage should print educational materials in languages other than English and supply native speakers in these areas.
Arny, who married in 1915, seems to have ended her involvement in the suffrage movement at that time, although her obituary made note of her involvement. She dedicated herself to the field of education, including a background at Bryn Mawr College, Lafayette College, Bread Loaf School of English, and extensive European travel. She was an active member of the Headmistresses Association and of the National Association of Principals of Schools of Girls. Helen Worman Arny Macan ended her teaching career as head of St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia from 1934 to 1951, where she was also credited with organizing the girl scout movement.
Altoona Tribute, 10 October 1914, p. 5. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/55469352/?terms=%22Helen%2BArney%22.
Altoona Tribune, 16 November 1914, p. 2 & 5. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/55479685/?terms=%22Helen%2BArney%22.
"Heads of School." SSSAS.org, Accessed February 6, 2017.http://www.sssas.org/page/about-us/history/heads-of-school.
"MRS. HELEN MACAN DIES; Former Headmistress of St. Agnes Episcopal School, 76." The New York Times, 26 March 1957, The New York Times.com, http://www.nytimes.com/1957/03/26/archives/mrs-helen-macan-dies-former-headmistress-of-st-agnes-episcopal.html.
The Scranton Truth, 21 November 1914, p. 2. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image501704227.
Williamsport Sun Gazette, 27 November 1914, p. 10. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/41008014/.