Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Dille Hastings, 1851-1929
By George Robb, professor, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey
President, Business Men's and Women's Equal Suffrage League of Philadelphia, c. 1912-15
Organizer, New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, 1913-14
Dille Hastings was born in New York City on February 17, 1851, the eldest of six children of Irish immigrants, Peter Hastings and Mary (Sheehan) Hastings. By 1870 the family had relocated to Cape May, New Jersey, where Peter worked as a railroad conductor. In 1880 Dille was working as a dressmaker in Philadelphia, where she boarded with an Irish family. By the early 20th century, Dille Hastings had her own dressmaking business and owned a house at 802 Pine Street. Three of her younger siblings lived with her, including her sister Anna, who also worked as a dressmaker and, like Dille, was involved in the suffrage movement. The Pine Street residence generated additional revenue as a boardinghouse; in 1910 there were six lodgers and Dille Hastings employed three African American servants.
Dille Hastings began her career as a suffragist in Philadelphia, where she served as the president of the Business Men's and Women's Equal Suffrage League. However, Hastings made her biggest impact as a suffrage organizer in southern New Jersey, especially Cape May County, where she lived for several months of the year. In 1913, Lillian Feickert, the energetic new president of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA), lamented that most of the organization's active, dues-paying members lived in northern New Jersey. Dille Hastings was one of two women Feikert hired in March 1913 as paid suffrage organizers for the southern part of the state. By that summer, Hastings had organized three new suffrage leagues in south Jersey.
Feikert praised Dille Hastings' work at the NJWSA annual convention in Bridgeton in May 1913. Hastings herself spoke of the challenges she faced as an organizer: "Most women do not give this vital question any thought—that's our first work, to interest and show how important the ballot is. Why shouldn't a woman vote? Men have accumulated old ideas and they are not anxious to give them up. In fact, man is a conservative animal and we must educate him. We must convince him that we are not taking anything away from him, but merely helping him." Hastings advised her fellow suffragists that they must be willing to "talk suffrage" at all times and to all manner of people. "Talk suffrage to every man you see, to the baker, the merchant, the butcher, and get the servant to convert the policeman. Throw caste and class aside and let us all work side by side for the good of a noble cause."
Dille Hastings followed her own advice, addressing diverse crowds at movie theaters, union halls, and county fairs across Ocean, Atlantic, Cumberland, and Cape May counties. She was especially active in building support for women's suffrage among the Granges of southern New Jersey. The Grange was a progressive movement among American farmers, and Grange Halls functioned as meeting centers in rural communities. At a national suffrage meeting in November 1913, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, singled out Dille Hastings's work among New Jersey's Granges for special praise.
In the summer of 1914, Dille Hastings helped plan a "Suffrage Flying Squadron" to tour through the smaller towns and hamlets of southern New Jersey. The squadron was comprised of several automobiles, colorfully decorated with American flags and suffrage banners, that travelled from town to town, stopping long enough to hold rallies, distribute literature, and collect signatures on pro-suffrage petitions to be presented to the New Jersey State Assembly. Hastings frequently spoke to the crowds gathered along the route. One of her remarks, "that there are 22 million reasons why women should have the vote," (the number of American women over 21 years old) was especially popular. Picked-up by national wire services, the quote was reprinted in hundreds of newspapers around the country.
By the Fall of 1914, Dille Hastings was no longer working for the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association, but continued to promote the cause in Philadelphia. In one especially successful stunt in September 1914, Hastings enlisted the aid of balloonists from the Philadelphia Aeronautical Society. The men agreed to drop suffrage pamphlets from their new balloon, "Greater Philadelphia," on its maiden voyage across Pennsylvania. In October 1914 Hastings spoke at Temple Rodeph Shalom, where she connected the cause of women's suffrage to World War I, recently begun in Europe. She stated that "one unfair result of the European war would be that much of the misery would fall on the women who had no vote or say regarding the start of the conflict." Dille Hastings gave a few more pro-suffrage speeches in Philadelphia in 1915, but disappears from the public record thereafter. To what extent she continued to advocate for suffrage remains unknown.
Dille Hastings continued to operate her dressmaking business in Philadelphia well into the 1920s. She died of pneumonia on March 3, 1929 at the age of 78.
United States Census 1870, 1880, 1910, 1920
"Activities of Women," Missouri Valley Times, April 9, 1914, p. 9.
"Balloonists Sow Seeds of Suffrage from the Heavens," Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, September 29, 1914, p. 4.
"Party for Suffrage League," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24, 1915, p. 5.
"Rodeph Shalom Sisterhood," Philadelphia Inquirer, October 21, 1914, p. 5.
"State Leagues Are Active for Suffrage," Jersey Journal, April 23, 1914, p. 4.
"Suffrage Flying Squadron Makes Tour of New Jersey," Kalamazoo Gazette, July 29, 1914, p. 5.
"Suffrage Notes," Trenton Evening Times, September 13, 1913, p. 10.
"Suffragists' Conference," Bridgeton Evening News, May 6, 1913, p. 4.
Ida Husted Harper, et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922) [LINK]