Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists 1890-1920
Biography of Cora Anderson (Mrs. Herbert) Carpenter, 1860-1923
By Daisy McNairy, The New Historia, The New School
Mrs. Herbert Carpenter was born Cora Anderson on April 3, 1860 in Louisville, KY. There is a possibility that she was born in 1863, a discrepancy between her tombstone and Carpenter family records ("Francis Bicknell Carpenter"). In her youth, Carpenter was a professionally trained Shakespearian actress, although further details about her education and early life are not readily available ("An Artistic Heritage"). She married Herbert Sanford Carpenter of New York on February 13, 1894 in his home state where they would take up residence and she would become active socially and politically ("Francis Bicknell Carpenter"). However, in 1891 there is already evidence of her having married as she is listed as Mrs. Herbert Carpenter with an address on the Upper East Side (5 West 82nd St) in publication The Epoch ("Epoch"). There, she is noted for having received guests. Mr. Carpenter was the son of famous artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter, known for his depiction of the First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln ("Francis Bicknell Carpenter"). What is clear is that Carpenter's marriage established her within the social spheres of New York. There is evidence that the Carpenters purchased a property outside of Saranac Lake, NY named Camp Arden, supposedly derived from the Forest of Arden found in Shakespeare's, As You Like It ("An Artistic Heritage").
Carpenter's name is peppered throughout numerous publications, minutes and periodicals, providing a window into her activities. Carpenter was a member and later the leader of the New York State Women's Suffrage Association. The association was active from 1869 - 1917, dissolving when women were granted the right to vote in New York State, three years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment. While it is unclear exactly what years Carpenter was the head of the organization, she has become somewhat of an icon of the movement, popularized for donning an American Flag, marching up Fifth Avenue representing and the parades for women's suffrage that were held throughout the early 1900s in New York City. These parades were massive and radical attempts to raise awareness and support for the cause.
Her photograph is her most visible and enduring legacy. First captured in 1915, Carpenter's image was featured on the front page of the New York Times. That same year, her image was used on a stamp for a handbill that reads: "Vote for the Woman Suffrage Amendment Nov. 2nd 1915," depicted standing tall holding the flag with the capital looming in the background ("Poster Stamp"). In 1916, she was featured in Women's Home Companion in the section titled "About People: A Department of Interesting Personalities." Pictured bearing the flag, right hand in a salute, she is described; "In her white cloth suit trimmed with ermine, Mrs. Herbert Carpenter, carrying the national en-sign with fine spirit, was the acknowledged hit of the suffrage parade. As the New York division, of which she was the marshal, halted opposite the reviewing stand, Mrs. Carpenter saluted Mayor Mitchel in the very best military fashion" (Woman's Home Companion, 12). A similar photograph of her was taken in 1917 (How Amendments Are Adopted, 9). Although, Carpenter had marched with the flag first in 1912, and while not photographed, she nonetheless garnered attention, described in The History of Woman Suffrage: "At the head of the great parade the first Saturday in May, 1912, marched the handsome and stately Mrs. Herbert Carpenter, carrying the Stars and Stripes" (Harper, 450).
Carpenter died in 1923 only three years after women were granted the right to vote nationwide. She was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Homer, NY.
"A Genealogical History of the Rehoboth Branch of the Carpenter Family in America, Brought down from Their English Ancestor, John Carpenter, 1303, with Many Biographical Notes of Descendants and Allied Families : Carpenter, Amos B. (Amos Bugbee), b. 1818" Internet Archive, The Library Shelf, 1 Jan. 1898, archive.org/details/genealogicalhist00carp.
"An Artistic Heritage." Arden Creek | Historic Camp Arden, ardencreek.com/camp_arden.php.
"Epoch." Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=i3o4AQAAMAAJ.
"Francis Bicknell Carpenter." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 July 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bicknell_Carpenter.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Harris, Sharon M. "The Pioneer Embraced." Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919, Rutgers University Press, 2009, pp. 241-52.
How Amendments Are Adopted. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=qFZ7AgAAQBAJ.
Library Archive Canada. "Universal Animated Weekly, Volume 5, Issue 96 (1917)." YouTube, YouTube, 4 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5-0c_eB-go.
The New York Times. [New-York N.Y] (New York, NY) 31 Oct. 1915, p. 1.
"Poster Stamp: Vote for Woman Suffrage Amendment Nov. 2nd 1915. 1915." Ann Lewis Women's Suffrage Collection, lewissuffragecollection.omeka.net/items/show/2062.
"Woman Suffrage Association of New York State and Woman Suffrage Party of New York City Records, 1869-1919." www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_4079156/.
Woman's Home Companion. Springfield, O. [etc.]: Crowell-Collier [etc.]