Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Grace Henshaw, 1842-1932

By Caitlin Reeves, graduate student, Simmons College

Grace Henshaw was born to John and Mary Anne (Lewis) Henshaw in Beacon Hill, Boston, MA in 1842. Not much is known about her early life, but Henshaw proved to be a vital member of the suffrage movement throughout her later years. During the 1890s, Henshaw took an active role in both the Cambridge Political Equality Association and the Cambridge Women's Suffrage League. She served in leadership positions and hosted meetings for both organizations at her house on Buckingham Street. In 1897, she signed a letter from the Cambridge Women's Suffrage League to the Senate and House of Representatives of Massachusetts, asking simply that "the woman who see the desirability and the need of direct participation in municipal control may have the opportunity given them." The letter directly countered the argument that most women did not want suffrage and so it was a waste of time to give them voting rights.

As the movement gained momentum, Henshaw continued to support local organizations. By 1916, she served as the vice-chairman of the Cambridge Political Equality Association and one of several directors of the Cambridge Equal Suffrage Club. She continued to provide financial support for the movement, which included supplying the funds for two marching bands at an October 1915 rally.

In 1917, Henshaw joined the Massachusetts Branch of the National Woman's Party (NWP). The same year, at the first meeting of the Cambridge Branch of the NWP, she hosted speaker Alice Paul. The following December she served as a delegate to the NWP convention in Washington, D.C. At the age of 72, she participated in the 1918 Women's March on Washington, and was recorded as a "pioneer." She travelled to attend every annual NWP convention through 1921.

For the next fourteen years, Henshaw continued to participate avidly in the NWP at the local and the national levels. After a group of suffragists were arrested for demonstrating on Boston Common in 1919, she waited outside the jail on Charles Street to support her NWP comrades, despite the shaming from the local National American Woman Suffrage Association against the "indecorous" NWP. At her death, her will included a legacy that would "put money into the immediate fight and not assume that victory would be delayed through another generation."

Henshaw died at home May 29, 1932 after a short illness.


"25 years ago," Cambridge Chronicle (Cambridge, MA), June 18, 1942. Accessed August 6, 2017.

Cambridge Political Equality Association, WRC, Folder 1070 "Membership and Officer list, 1896-1916 n.d. Some for MWSA," 29 April 1896, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Cambridge Tribune (Cambridge, MA), January 22, 1921 and February 7, 1891. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Equal rights work in New England," Equal rights. Vol. 14, Iss. 3 (1928) pg. 22-23.

"Equal Suffrage Club," Cambridge Chronicle (Cambridge, MA), April 22, 1916. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Georgia women join the woman's party," The Suffragist. Vol. 5, Iss. 66 (1917) pg. 7.

"Harvard Square Notes," Cambridge Tribune (Cambridge, MA), April 15, 1916.

"Let there be no confusion!" Cambridge Tribune (Cambridge, MA), March 1, 1919. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Miss Grace Henshaw," Cambridge Chronicle (Cambridge, MA), June 3, 1932, p5. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Miss Grace Henshaw." Cambridge Tribune (Cambridge, MA), June 4, 1932. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"National Woman's Party Miss Grace Henshaw a delegate to the gathering in Washington, D.C.," Cambridge Tribune (Cambridge, MA), December 22, 1917. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Old Cambridge," Cambridge Chronicle (Cambridge, MA), June 16, 1917.

"Suffrage Notes," Cambridge Sentinel (Cambridge, MA), October 9, 1915. Accessed August 6, 2017.

"Table Gossip," Boston Globe (Boston, MA), June 29, 1919.

"What It Has Cost," The Suffragist, 28 June 1919, pp. 9, 11.

"Wilson's words are burned by Suffragists," New York Tribune (Washington Bureau), December 17, 1918.

"Women of Cambridge give reasons why they should be allowed to vote in municipal matters," Cambridge Chronicle (Cambridge, MA), March 13, 1897. Accessed August 6, 2017.

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