Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Edith Hyde Colby, 1876-1962

By Alinda Drury, Ph.D., retired municipal administrator; vice-president Rochester Historical Society, Rochester, NY

President, National Women's Branch, Progressive Party (Bull Moose), 1912

Grand Marshal, NJ Division, Suffrage Parade, New York City, May 5, 1912

Chair, Joint Legislative Committee (representing four NJ suffrage groups), 1913

Finance Chair, New Jersey Equal Suffrage Organization, 1915

Foreman, first all-woman jury in New Jersey, 1920

Edith Hyde was born June 21, 1876 in Plainfield, New Jersey, to Charles Hyde, a banker aged 57, and his wife Elizabeth, 41 years of age. Edith was the youngest of their five children and their only daughter. She grew up in Plainfield at 605 East Front Street, and the family attended the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. Edith was educated at what is now the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, a Presbyterian boarding school for girls.

At age 27, Edith married Everett Colby, a wealthy 26 year old attorney, in Plainfield, June 30, 1903. The wedding, as reported by the Plainfield Courier (June 29, 1903) was "undeniably the most brilliant affair of its nature ever taking place in this city." Three thousand invitations were sent to prominent families throughout the East, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., one of the ushers, was reported to have sent a gift to Miss Hyde valued at $8,000. The couple settled in West Orange NJ, where they raised their four children: Elizabeth (1904-1906), Edith (1906-1981), Anne -- who married into the Vanderbilt family -- (1908-1974), Everett, Jr. (1914-2000), and Charles (1916-1984).

Everett Colby was deeply involved in politics. He was a Republican member and then speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly; he served one term (1903-1908) in the New Jersey Senate; worked nationally to organize and promote the Progressive Party, and was their nominee for New Jersey governor in 1913; and, inconsistent with his progressive views, sometimes worked against labor unions. He was, however, active in his support for woman suffrage. He and Mrs. Colby often appeared together as speakers at suffrage events.

Mrs. Colby was also politically active, and was appointed President of the National Women's Branch of the Progressive Party in 1912. Her active support for suffrage in New Jersey is first noted in 1912, when she established a women's political union in West Orange, and on May 5, 1912, she led the New Jersey delegation in the New York City Suffrage Parade, which had over 15,000 participants.

She quickly expanded her work to further organizing and leadership positions, working locally and at the state level. Perhaps most importantly, she chaired the New Jersey Joint Legislative Committee (1912-15), which served the purposes of four New Jersey suffrage groups -- the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, the Woman's Political Union, the Equal Franchise Society, and the New Jersey Men's League for Women. It was this Committee that prepared and introduced legislation to the New Jersey legislature to submit the suffrage amendment to the voters of that state. And, in 1915, she was appointed Chair of the Finance Committee of the New Jersey Equal Suffrage Organization. Much of her time that year was devoted to successful fund-raising.

In 1920, following ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Mrs. Colby was selected as foreman of the first all-woman jury in New Jersey (involving a female murder defendant). She remained active politically in the Republican party as a member of the State Committee beginning in 1922, was a delegate for Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and in 1932 a Republican elector for New Jersey.

Edith Hyde Colby died at home (Llewellyn Park) on March 23, 1962 at age 86 of a heart attack.


US Federal Census 1880, 1900, 1910

"To Aid Suffrage Cause," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey) Sat, Mar 2, 1912, Page 1

"The Bull Moose in New Jersey," The Chatham Press (Chatham, New Jersey) Sat, Sep 28, 1912, Page 8

"Suffrage Call to Arms Stirs State," Asbury Park Press (Asbury Park, NJ) Wed, Dec 18, 1912, Page 2

"Suffragists Get After Middlesex Legislators," The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, NJ) Fri, Jan 10, 1913

"New Jersey Women Busy Battling for Ballot," The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey) Fri, Jan 24, 1913, Page 2

"What NJ Women Are Doing For Suffrage" The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, New Jersey) Sat, May 10, 1913, Page 2

"Mrs. Colby Says Women Who Have Everything Want Votes for Those Who Haven't," The Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, NJ) Tue, Sep 21, 1915, Page 7 [includes photo and quotes] Similar story also ran in Asbury Park: "Mrs. Everett Colby, Suffrage Worker, and her Three Beautiful Children," Asbury Park Press (Asbury Park, NJ) Thu, Sep 23, 1915, Page 5

"Mrs. Everett Colby Forewoman of Jury," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey) Tue, Nov 23, 1920, Page 1


Edith Colby's passport photo, 1923

Passport applications, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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