Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alice Elaine Fletcher Paddison, 1869-1948
By Elizabeth Lorelei Thacker-Estrada, Merced Branch Library Manager, San Francisco Public Library.
Progressive National and County Convention Delegate, President of the Progressive Women's Club, Bull Moose Party Floor Committee Member, Inventor, Businesswoman, Wife, Mother
Alice Elaine Fletcher was born on September 20, 1869, to Amos Warren Fletcher, a farmer and U.S. Army Civil War veteran, and Viola Alma Wakefield Durand Fletcher in Atchison County, Kansas. The eldest of three children, Alice spent her childhood in Kansas.
Alice married Louis Charles Paddison (born on April 20, 1861, in Peoria, Illinois) on July 10, 1886, in Mesa, Colorado. There she gave birth to her only child, Louis Fletcher Paddison, on March 14, 1887.
By 1910, the family was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Paddisons owned a home. Her husband was employed as an engine foreman for 40 years by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad company.
Alice Paddison became the successful inventor a window screen. The invention holds Patent No. 918,585 and was patented on April 20, 1909. She had spent more than four years perfecting the invention "unassisted," and being "a pretty good hand with the saw and hammer," she had completed a large model of her invention. The screen, which was secreted in a window sash, automatically fastened to a window frame when the window was raised or lowered, and, when the screen was not needed, a simple adjustment caused it to spring back to its original position, leaving the window up. The screen could be used in any type of window. The invention eliminated the need to remove screens to wash windows on the outside and to store screens "in the coal house during the winter." Additionally, "neither flies nor mosquitos" had "a ghost of a chance to get through" the screened window. In an interview with the Salt Lake Telegram, Alice revealed that she had conceived of the idea of the window screen when she was a hospital patient, passing her time looking through a window and admiring the new spring bonnets of the women who visited the hospital. The bottom board of the window screen obscured her view of the visitors, and it took half a day to remove the screen. Alice hoped that if she ever had "to go to the hospital again" she would "be able to admire the new spring hats through a screen of her own invention with no obstructions to hide any part of the apparel."
Alice initially manufactured and promoted the window screen through the Paddison-West Window Screen Company, which was incorporated in 1910. It later became the Paddison-Voinchet Window Screen Company, a Utah corporation with stockholders, of which Alice was president. The business was renamed the Paddison Automatic Window Screen Company in 1916.
In addition to Louis's railroad work and Alice's marketing of her window screen, the Paddisons supported themselves through ownership of a mine in Elko County, Nevada. Their mine yielded lead, silver, and gold.
Women in the Territory of Utah obtained the right to vote in 1870. Some Utahns thought suffrage would empower women to vote against the Mormon practice of polygamy. Others believed that it would demonstrate that the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not oppressed, they would support plural marriage, and they would strengthen Mormon political power. Utah women were disenfranchised in 1887 when the United States Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which opposed polygamy. Mormon women had not voted to end plural marriage, and the argument was made that the wives were not voting of their own free will but under the direction of their husbands.
The LDS Church publicly renounced polygamy in 1890, and women's suffrage in Utah was restored in the 1895 state constitution. Utah women continued to advocate for national women's suffrage. According to the History of Woman Suffrage, "Mrs. Alice E. Paddison" was one of the "women who have acted as delegates and alternates" in support of the cause. As a member of the Progressive Party, she became especially active in the fight for women's suffrage in the mid-1910s. The Progressive Party, founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and nicknamed the Bull Moose Party, was the first prominent national political party to endorse women's suffrage. The Party also supported minimum wage standards for working women to provide a "living wage" in all industrial occupations.
By 1915, Alice, an established businesswoman in Salt Lake City, became increasingly active politically. On January 26th, she hosted the Progressive women of the Sixteenth Voting District at her home. She assisted in founding an auxiliary to the organization of Progressive women for the Second Municipal Ward. On August 19th, she joined twenty-four other women, including Emmeline B. Wells and Emily S. Richards, two of the founders of the Woman Suffrage Association of Utah, in carrying "the purple, white, and gold banner" of the women's suffrage cause in a parade of automobiles through Salt Lake streets from the Newhouse Hotel to the Hotel Utah. There the women thanked Republican United States Senator Reed Smoot "for his work for suffrage in the past and asked him to support the movement in the future." Senator Smoot, quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, "assured the women that he would do all in his power to prevent the bills for the cause being sidetracked through formalities." Before the parade a luncheon had been held for Alice Paul, chair of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. That afternoon, at a meeting to elect delegates to the first Women Voters' Convention to be held in September in San Francisco, Alice Paul; Annie Wells Cannon, daughter of Emmeline Wells and chairman of the convention; and Republican U.S. Senator George Sutherland spoke. Senator Sutherland was thanked for his work on behalf of women's suffrage.
On May 1, 1916, a Republican State Convention held in Provo, Utah, declared in favor of national women's suffrage. At a luncheon on May 4th, Alice participated in a "general discussion" with other Utah Progressives of the pros and cons of uniting with Republicans or Democrats. Prior to the discussion, guest of honor Frank P. Corrick, the special emissary of the Progressive National Committee, told the approximately 60 attendees that the "important thing is to have Progressive principles enacted into law and otherwise carried out. We should maintain our party organization, but feel free to join hands with any other party going in our direction."
The Republican and Progressive National Conventions met in Chicago from June 7-10. Utah Progressives had selected Alice as a delegate from the second district. On June 3rd, she and other delegates left by train for the Progressive National Convention. In Denver, the Colorado delegation joined the Utah delegation, and together they proceeded to Chicago. W. D. Livingston, chairman of the Progressive state executive committee, led the Utah delegation and stated that "the Utah Progressives would be willing to make all reasonable efforts to agree with the Republicans on a presidential candidate, but, if no agreement could be reached within a proper time, they favored nominating [Theodore] Roosevelt independently and going home." A "harmony committee" composed of delegates from each of the conventions was appointed with the goal of formulating a policy by which the two parties could unite in the nomination of candidates. The Progressives insisted upon the nomination of Theodore Roosevelt (TR) for President, and, after several meetings of the conference committee, the attempt to "get together" was abandoned. Progressives nominated TR, who declined to accept the nomination, and the Progressive National Committee endorsed the Republican ticket of Charles Evans Hughes and Charles Warren Fairbanks, though many members of the Progressive Party refused to support this ticket.
On September 12th, the Progressives of Salt Lake City elected Alice and her husband to be delegates from the Second Ward to the Salt Lake County Progressive Convention to be held on the 15th in Salt Lake City. The Progressive County Convention took place at the same time as the Democratic County Convention in order to facilitate the plans of the leaders of both parties for a fusion ticket.
On October 7th, Alice, now president of the Progressive Women's Club, presided at a joint luncheon of the Woodrow Wilson League and the combined Wilson clubs of Salt Lake City. She was introduced by Mrs. B. F. Frobes, president of the Woodrow Wilson League. More than 100 women from throughout the county attended the luncheon. "In honor of President Wilson's native state," the Salt Lake Tribune reported, "the room and the tables were decorated with huge bouquets of Virginia roses, and the musical programme consisted largely of southern melodies."
On February 8, 1917, at a large luncheon, enthusiastic members of the Bull Moose Party named Alice to be a member of the floor committee. The committee was tasked with planning the big annual Lincoln Day banquet to be held on February 12th. The Salt Lake Tribune predicted that with "special rates in effect on all railroads the Bull Moosers anticipate the largest gathering of the herd in the history of the party."
On April 5th at a Bull Moose meeting, Alice pledged to attend the Progressive National Convention, which was to be held April 12-14 in St. Louis. At least one hundred progressives "fully and heartily" endorsed the message of President Wilson to Congress, with a lone pacifist dissenter. The Progressives proposed a resolution "that the party go on record as thoroughly indorsing [sic] the message of the president to congress in relation to the war situation and that the party tender its loyal support." Alice's service as a Progressive Party delegate attracted favorable newspaper publicity in her home town of Atchison, Kansas.
The Paddisons were active in civic organizations as well as political parties. Alice was elected treasurer of the Daughters of Veterans Tent No. 1 on December 10, 1912, and secretary of Salt Air lodge No. 494 of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (BRT) on December 11, 1915. Louis was a member of local No. 471 of the BRT, a labor organization that negotiated contracts with railroad management and provided insurance for members. He was also a charter member of Salt Lake Lodge No. 259, Loyal Order of Moose, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
On August 13, 1941, Alice lost her life partner when Louis died of a paralytic stroke at the age of 80 at his mining property, the Blue Jacket Mine, near Tuscarora, Nevada. The local Independent Order of Oddfellows Lodge conducted the funeral services on the 16th of August in Elko, Nevada, and his body was sent to Salt Lake City for cremation.
Alice Paddison died of natural causes on January 26, 1948, at age 78 in Salt Lake City. Her last address was 68 South Second West Street. The Right Reverend Arthur W. Moulton, former president of the Western Province of the Episcopal Church, conducted the funeral services on Saturday, January 31st at 2:00 p.m. at Evans and Early Mortuary. She is buried at City View Memoriam Mausoleum in Salt Lake City with the ashes of her husband. She was survived by her son Louis, her sister Agnes Hardy, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
A photograph of Alice Paddison can be found on the findagrave.com website. Alice Elaine Fletcher Paddison (1869-1948) - Find A Grave Memorial.
Alice Elaine Fletcher Paddison. Find-a-grave website.
Atchison Daily Globe. April 22, 1916, p. 10.
"Bull Moose Name Floor Committee." Salt Lake Tribune, February 9, 1917, p. 14.
"Funerals." Salt Lake Telegram, January 30, 1948, p. 30.
"General Items." Salt Lake Mining Review, July 15, 1918, p. 33.
Harper, Ida Husted, Editor. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, P. 648. [LINK]
Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925. Ancestry.com website.
"L.A. of B.R.T. Election." Salt Lake Telegram, December 12, 1915, p. 10.
Madsen, Carol Cornwall, Editor. Battle for the Ballot: Essays on Woman Suffrage in Utah, 1870-1896. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1997.
Mesa County, Colorado, Marriage Index, 1883-2010. Ancestry.com.
"Mrs. Tanner at Head of Daughters of Veterans." Salt Lake Herald-Republican, December 11, 1912, p. 15.
Nevada, Death Certificates, 1911-1965. Ancestry.com website.
"Notice." Salt Lake Telegram, November 22, 1916, p. 10.
"Obituaries." Salt Lake Telegram, January 27, 1948, p. 22.
"Obituaries, Vital Statistics Garnered from S.L., Intermountain Area." Salt Lake Telegram, August 16, 1941, p. 13.
"Pacifist is Routed at Moose Meeting." Salt Lake Tribune, April 6, 1917, p. 14.
"Parade Streets to Advance Suffrage Cause: Banner Carried by Women who Participate." Salt Lake Tribune, August 20, 1915, p. 2.
"Progressive Women Form an Auxiliary." Salt Lake Tribune, January 27, 1915, p. 11.
"Progressives Leave for the Convention." Salt Lake Tribune, June 4, 1916, p. 32.
"Progressives Name Delegates to Convention." Salt Lake Telegram, September 13, 1916, p. 6.
"Progressives Talk Over Union Plans." Salt Lake Tribune. May 5, 1916, p. 12.
Salt Lake County, Utah, Death Records, 1908-1949. Ancestry.com website.
"Salt Lake Woman Becomes Inventor." Salt Lake Tribune, March 20, 1910, p. 2.
"To Manufacture Screen Invented by Woman." Salt Lake Herald-Republican, October 2, 1910, p. 43.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1940. Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org websites.
Utah Digital Newspapers website. Utah Digital Newspapers - Home. Newspapers accessed: Salt Lake Herald-Republican, Salt Lake Mining Review, Salt Lake Telegram, Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah, Obituaries from Utah Newspapers, 1850-2005. FamilySearch.org website.
Warrum, Noble, Editor. Utah Since Statehood, Historical and Biographical. Vol. I. Chicago-Salt Lake: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919. Page 176.
"Woman Inventor Has Something New in Window Screens." Salt Lake Telegram, March 21, 1910, p. 3.
"Women Democrats are to Meet Today." Salt Lake Tribune, October 7, 1916, p. 10.
"Women Democrats Meet at Luncheon." Salt Lake Tribune, October 8, 1916, p. 22.