Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Althea L. Hall, 1864-1934
By Elisa Miller, Associate Professor, Rhode Island College and Jessica Corr, Cole Mazzaferro, Lauren McNally, David Miropolsky, Ken Ngai, Emily Palmer, Student, Westford Academy, Westford, Massachusetts
Member, Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association and Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association; District Leader and Secretary, Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party; President, Pawtucket Woman's Citizen League; Chair, Pawtucket Branch of Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party; Chair, Red Cross Committee for Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party; Chair, Pawtucket League of Women Voters; Member, Board of Directors, United League of Women Voters of Rhode Island
Althea Louise Hall was born in Milbury, Massachusetts, a town near Worcester in October 1864 to Asa Hall, a butcher, and his wife, Louisa Smith. By her early teen years, both of her parents had died and she lived with her older brother, William P. Hall, who worked as a teamster. In the early 1880s, Althea and William Hall moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Later, after William moved to Boston, Althea lived as a lodger on her own and later with her niece, Althea M. Hall, in Pawtucket. She worked as a clerical worker - bookkeeper and stenographer - at the L.B. Darling fertilizer company for many years and never married.
The earliest record of Hall's suffrage activism is 1912. The Providence Journal referred to her in 1912 as the president of the Pawtucket Woman's Citizens' League, a local branch affiliated with the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association (RIWSA). She was most likely active earlier than 1912, though, given that she had assumed a leadership position by then. Sara M. Algeo, a prominent Rhode Island suffragist and colleague of Hall's, explained in her memoir that Hall got involved in the suffrage movement through her activism for the Progressive Party. In 1912, Hall participated in the first open-air suffrage rally in Rhode Island at an event put on by RIWSA in downtown Providence. The event was led by Louise Hall (no relation), assisted by Althea Hall and Emma Burke. Louise Hall gave a speech and the three suffragists carried suffrage banners and sold The Woman's Journal suffrage newspaper and suffrage pins. Althea Hall gave high-praise to The Woman's Journal, writing in a letter to its editor, "I cannot express to you what the Journal means to me. I think it is literally the best paper printed in this country." In 1912, Hall worked at RIWSA's suffrage booth at the Pure Food Fair, a prominent event in the community that RIWSA used to raise awareness about woman suffrage. The History of Woman Suffrage praised Hall and the other volunteers as "unselfish workers" who did "arduous work" and noted that at the event:
thousands of new members were enrolled, tens of thousands of leaflets were distributed, and publicity work was done. The "suffrage map" was in evidence, showing the many States that had been won, an irrefutable argument against the emanations of the anti-suffrage booth. At no other time and place could so many classes of people be reached.
In 1913, Hall was a founding member of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party (RIWSP), a new organization to advance the suffrage cause in the state. Both the RIWSA and RIWSP were affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She served as a "principal worker" for a three-day suffrage bazaar held by RIWSP in 1913; the bazaar raised money and awareness for the suffrage movement. In 1914, RIWSP, assisted by other local suffrage groups, held a week-long "Votes for Women" campaign that Hall helped coordinate and gave a speech at. Hall contributed to a suffrage newspaper, The Woman Suffrage Party News, that RIWSP published in 1914. She occasionally gave suffrage speeches at RIWSP and community meetings and read her original stories and songs. For example, at a local Parent Teacher Association meaning, Hall gave a talk about famous women's rights activists, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Julia Ward Howe. Hall arranged a 1915 RIWSP luncheon in honor of Dr. Alice Blackwell, a noted suffrage leader. At the event, Hall gave a brief speech about Blackwell's parents, Lucy Stone and Henry B. Blackwell, women's rights and abolition pioneers. Besides her local activism, Hall tried to influence suffrage nationally by signing a suffrage petition that was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1914. For Labor Day in 1915, RIWSP made plans for a suffrage event where they planned to have a large number of young girls wearing white capes trimmed with yellow passing out suffrage literature on the streets. Hall was in charge of securing "pretty girls to distribute literature" for the event. She acted in the play "War Brides" in a 1917 RIWSP to raise money for a NAWSA campaign. In 1919, she planned suffrage events in Pawtucket as part of state and national "Women's Independence Day" suffrage campaign.
In 1915, Hall was appointed to a committee to discuss the creation of a new suffrage organization, that would consolidate the three major Rhode Island suffrage organizations - the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party, the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association, and the College Equal Suffrage League. The new organization was called the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association. The relationship in the amalgamated organization was a fraught one, and Sara Algeo reestablished the Woman Suffrage Party later in 1915. Althea Hall primarily participated in the RIWSP but the organizations frequently collaborated on suffrage efforts. She held numerous leadership positions in the RIWSP: secretary, district leader, and chair of the Pawtucket branch. In addition to her local leadership, Hall was elected to the Rhode Island executive committee of the New England Woman Suffrage Association in 1917.
Hall frequently wrote letters to the editor in local newspapers to advocate for the suffrage cause. These letter reveal some of her ideas about suffrage. In a 1917 letter, she referred to suffrage as "a cause she holds as dear as life." In several letters, Hall emphasized the idea that it was important for society that mothers have citizenship rights, including the right to vote, since they were responsible for teaching and influencing their children, the citizens of the future. Hall explained, "'Citizenship' is one of the noblest things a guardian of the young can teach." In a 1913, letter, she defended famed British suffragist, Emmeline Pankhurst, and her organization, again criticism of violence. Hall wrote that rather than condemning Pankhurst and her militant supporters, people should examine the question, "What is it that has driving women of these classes to such acts?" She spoke positively about Pankhurst's visit to Providence and explained that Pankhurst was not promoting the use of violence in the American suffrage movement. In 1917, Rhode Island women won the right to vote in presidential elections. The first time they could register to vote was in 1918 for the 1920 presidential election. In a 1918, Hall explained the process to register to vote and urged Rhode Island women to do so. She noted that it was their choice and that no women would be forced to vote. However, she stressed the importance of women's vote, stating:
A good president or a bad one means much to your country, and much to your family...A vote is the expression of your opinion. This is what will make a true democracy - that each one of us, obliged to keep the laws of her community, or be punished is she breaks them shall have some say about the framing of these laws and as to the election of those who govern us.
Hall was a working woman and she used this background to aid the suffrage cause. At a RIWSP meeting in 1914, Hall gave a speech about "woman suffrage from a working girl's point of view." Hall worked for many years as a clerical worker at the L.B. Darling Fertilizer Company in Pawtucket, RI. In 1915, Hall helped arrange a mass suffrage meeting that was held at the Darling Company for the male workers there as well as the general public. The Providence Journal newspaper covered the event and reported that more than a hundred men attended and that the Darling Company closed early to allow its workers to attend "out of courtesy to Miss Althea Hall."
In addition to her suffrage activism, Hall was involved in other community organizations. She was a member of the Foreign Missionary Society of the First Baptist Church in Pawtucket. She served on the executive committee of Froebel Society, an organization for children's education. For many years, she raised money and created community events for the Pawtucket Boys' Club. Hall volunteered at Progressive Party events. She participated in events for the Civic Forum, such as a 1916 lecture on infant health, where she invited the Board of Health to present on "What We Should Do to Save the Baby." At another Forum event in support of prohibition in 1917, Hall gave a talk on the "Original Folk-Lore Stories of Rhode Island."
During World War I, NAWSA leaders urged suffragists to contribute to the war effort in the United States as a way to demonstrate women's patriotism and earn support for woman suffrage. Hall was a leader in women's war voluntarism in Rhode Island. In 1917, she served as Red Cross chair for RIWSP. She led a "tag" sale in Pawtucket that raised over $1,000 by employing the use of "tagging", a fundraising technique that utilized social influence to identify (tag) and thank donors. The money was donated to the Women's Overseas Hospital Fund, a NAWSA effort to provide medical care in war-torn Europe. In a letter to the editor in The Evening Times, Hall emphasized the need for donations for the Overseas Hospitals Fund, claiming that "Women and children [were suffering] without the alleviation of doctors in thousands of cases in war-stricken France." During the war, Hall joined the Rhode Island Women's Americanization Committee that was affiliated with NAWSA's national Americanization campaign. The Americanization campaign promoted assimilation, education, and English language requirements for immigrants, during a time of heightened xenophobia during the war. NAWSA and Rhode Island suffragists also supported Americanization efforts because they hoped it would alleviate concerns about foreign-born women earning the right to vote through suffrage.
In the fall of 1919, Rhode Island suffrage organizations increased their political lobbying in order to get the federal suffrage amendment ratified by the state government. Hall played an important role in these lobbying efforts. Isaac Gill was the Commissioner of Public Works in Pawtucket and a powerful local politician whom The New York Times called the "reputed dictator of Rhode Island Elections." Hall and other RIWSP members met with Gill to gain his support for the special legislative session to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. At the meeting, Gill told the suffragists that he supported woman suffrage and would assist in the effort for a special session to ratify the amendment. Hall and a large group of suffragists also met with Governor Livingston Beeckman in the fall of 1919 to request his support for a special session. At the meeting with the governor, many local suffrage leaders, gave speeches, including Althea Hall representing the Pawtucket League of Women Voters.
In January 1920, the Rhode Island state government ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. The night that Governor Beeckman signed the amendment, suffrage organizations held a large event in celebration. The governor, Providence mayor, and Jeannette Rankin, U.S. Congresswoman and famed suffragist, gave speeches at the event; Hall also gave a speech at the celebration. After the amendment was ratified nationally in August 1920, NAWSA "issued service certificates to State leaders" across the country. Althea L. Hall received one of these commendations from NAWSA for her suffrage contributions in Rhode Island. Hall remained active in women's issues in Rhode Island. She was a member of the board of directors of the United League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, a new organization that emerged out of the National American Woman Suffrage Association nationally and the RIESA and RWSP locally. She was a founding member of the Pawtucket branch of the League of Women Voters (LWV) in 1919 and served as the organization's chair. As a League officer, Hall gave speeches to women's groups about voting and registration and helped raise money for the Anna Howard Shaw Fund, a national effort by the LWV to establish a women's political institute at Bryn Mawr College and one in preventive medicine at the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She also belonged to the Rhode Island branch of the National Woman's Party (NWP) that was established in 1923 and worked at events to raise money for the new organization. She was invited attend an NWP conference at Seneca Falls, New York in 1923 to strategize about the post-suffrage women's movement and the Equal Rights Amendment but it is not clear if she attended the event.
As a suffragist, Hall had been a member of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party, which was a rare interracial suffrage organization with Black and white members. In 1920, several months after Rhode Island had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, Hall expressed strong support for equal rights for African Americans. In a letter to the editor of the Pawtucket newspaper, TheEvening Times, Hall wrote in favor of a proposed civil rights bill in the Rhode Island Assembly. She explained that more than fifty years after the end of slavery, "what we call civil rights are still, in a measure, denied the colored race." The proposed bill would provide fair and equal treatment in public to all races in Rhode Island. Hall asked, "Does that not seem fair and reasonable to any right-minded person?" This kind of attention and support about civil rights by white suffragists in Rhode Island, and nationally, was unusual.
By the 1920s, Hall had become active in the Rhode Island Republican Party and gave a radio speech at a Rhode Island Republican Party rally during the 1928 election campaign. Her last known community service was serving as an officer of the Rhode Island Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the 1930s. Althea Hall died in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on July 26, 1934. Her funeral was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Pawtucket and she was buried in the Milbury Central Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.
From Sara M. Algeo, The Story of a Sub-Pioneer (Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925), 125.
"Women Urge Vote in Open-Air Talk," The Providence Sunday Journal, April 14, 1912. John Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, RI.
Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York: J. J. Little & Ives Company, 1922). [LINK to RI state report]
Algeo, Sara M. The Story of a Sub-Pioneer. E-book, Providence, RI, Snow & Farnham Company, 1925.
"Althea L. Hall," Find A Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/209808841/althea-l.-hall.
Acts and Resolves passed by the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations at the January Session, A.D. 1920 (Providence, RI: E.L. Freeman Company, Printers, 1920), 881.
Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 63rd Congress, Third Session (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1915), 66.
Althea L. Hall, "Aid Need Urgent," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), August 2, 1918.
Althea L. Hall, "'Citizenship' Defined in Interests of Suffrage," The Providence Journal, April 1, 1917.
Althea L. Hall, "Civil Rights for Colored Citizens," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), April 12, 1920.
Althea L. Hall, "Defence of Violence; Lawlessness of English Followers of Mrs. Pankhurst Approved," The Providence Sunday Journal, October 26, 1913.
Althea Louise Hall, "How Many Woman May Qualify to Vote," The Providence Sunday Journal, January 20, 1918.
"Old Maid [pseudonym for Althea L. Hall], "Those Who Teach Children Should Be Citizens," The Providence Sunday Journal, March 18, 1917.
"Asks $100 Bonuses for R.I. Yeomen," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), January 30, 1920.
"Death Notices," The Providence Journal, July 27, 1934.
"Designate Thursday for Registrations," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), April 6, 1920.
"Dr. Swarts Addresses Civic Forum Meeting," The Providence Journal, November 13, 1916.
"Canada Suffrage Leader Tells of Work in Dominion," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), November 2, 1916.
"Give the Press a Chance," The Woman's Journal 44, No. 19 (May 10, 1913), 149.
"G.O.P. Rallies Tonight," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), October 11, 1928.
"Isaac Gill Tells Women That He Favors Suffrage," The Providence Journal, October 4, 1919.
"Isaac Gill Will See Suffrage Leaders," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), October 2, 1919.
"Mass Meeting Held," The Providence Journal, August 26, 1915.
"Miss Blackwell Talks at Lunch of Suffragists," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), March 27, 1915.
"Mrs. Sara M. Algeo Again Suffrage Party Chairman" The Providence Journal, November 3, 1917.
"New England Officers Chosen," The Woman's Journal 48, No. 20 (May 19, 1917), 117.
"New Voters' Body Formed by Women," The Providence Journal, October 8, 1920.
"Observance Here of Winning Vote," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), May 16, 1919.
"Pawtucket," The Providence Journal, November 9, 1919.
"Pawtucket Society," The Providence Journal, May 23, 1915.
"Personal and Social," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), July 24, 1918.
"Republicans Defer Action on Special Suffrage Session," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), July 18, 1919.
"Rhode Island," The Woman's Journal 46, No. 14 (April 3, 1915), 108.
"Rhode Islanders Favor National Woman Suffrage," The Providence Journal, December 25, 1914.
"R.I. Suffragists Renew Endeavors for Ratification," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), September 24, 1919.
"R.I. Women Voters to Attend Meeting," The Providence Sunday Journal, November 14, 1920.
Sara M. Algeo, "Aiding to Franchise Foreign-Born Women," The Providence Journal, March 17, 1918.
"State Committee of Suffrage Party Meets," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), October 9, 1918.
"State Organizer Gives Address on Suffrage Issues," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), March 21, 1914.
"State's Suffrage Forces Celebrate Assembly Victory," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), January 7, 1920.
"State's Suffrage Party Conducts Sunday Meeting," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), August 31, 1914.
"Suffrage Campaign," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), August 25, 1915
"Suffrage Party Plans July Meeting Series," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), June 26, 1918.
"Suffrage Party to Be Held for Million Dollar Fund," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), February 2, 1917.
"Suffragists Open Three-Day Bazaar," The Providence Journal, December 4, 1914.
"Suffragists to Aid Red Cross Campaign," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), March 22, 1917.
"Sympathy Shown to Boys in France," The Providence Journal, August 16, 1917.
"Tag Day in Providence," The Woman Citizen 3, No. 11 (July 13, 1918), 252.
"Tag Day to be Held for Benefit of Overseas Hospitals," The Providence Journal, August 3, 1918.
"To Speak on Suffrage," The Providence Journal, August 24, 1915.
"Will Ask 'Thank Offering' from Women Election Day," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), October 16, 1920.
"Woman Suffrage Advocated from Peanut Box Top," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), April 13, 1912.
"Woman Suffrage Plans for Week Nearly Complete," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), April 24, 1914.
"Woman Suffrage Societies United," The Providence Journal, May 2, 1915.
"Woman Suffragists in Open Air Meeting," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, RI), August 23, 1915.
"Women to Begin Final Fight for Full Equality," The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), May 23, 1923.
"Women Urge Vote in Open-Air Talk," The Providence Sunday Journal, April 14, 1912.
"Women Voters' League Announces Election Result," The Providence Sunday Journal, October 10, 1920.