Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Sara M. Algeo, 1876-1953

By Elisa Miller, Associate Professor of History, Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island

President of the Rhode Island College Equal Suffrage League; Founder and Chair of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party; Member of Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association; Rhode Island Vice President and Member of the Executive Committee of the New England Woman Suffrage Association; Chair of the Rhode Island Woman's Americanization Committee; President of the Providence League of Women Voters; Chair of the Rhode Island National Woman's Party; Member of the Advisory Board of the Rhode Island NAACP; Temperance and Working Women's Club Activist; Secretary of the Rhode Island Association of Collegiate Alumnae; Teacher; Political Candidate

Sara Louise MacCormack was born on June 13, 1876 in Cohasset, Massachusetts, a coastal town south of Boston. Her parents were John and Sarah Clemens MacCormack; both were immigrants, John came from England but was of Scottish descent and Sarah came from Northern Ireland. She was the youngest of five children; a sixth child who died as an infant had also been named Sara. John MacCormack worked as a farm laborer but died of tuberculosis in 1879 when Sara was three years old. After his death, her mother worked as a washing woman to support the family. After graduation, Sara MacCormack attended Boston University, along with an older brother.

MacCormack graduated with an A.B. with honors from Boston University in 1899 and moved to Rhode Island to take a job teaching French at Cranston High School. In Rhode Island, she became good friends with Ellen Tarr Calder, an older woman who had been part of the nineteenth-century women's rights and abolition movements. Calder provided her information about the issue of woman suffrage. MacCormack's earliest involvement with the suffrage movement was in 1906 when she attended a meeting of the Boston Equal Suffrage League on the invitation of a college friend, Sadie Rexford, now Mrs. Frank H. Noyes. In 1925, in her memoir, Algeo explained her support for suffrage, writing, "I, for one, wanted the vote because I felt it belonged to me as a citizen, a right that had been denied my sex since the beginning of an androcentric civilization."

By 1905, MacCormack became active in the working girls' club movement in Rhode Island, an effort by middle-class women to provide education, leisure, and moral protection for working-class women and girls. She served as secretary of the Rhode Island Association of Working Women's Clubs, stayed active in the organization for many years, and collaborated with many Rhode Island suffragists who also were involved in the working women's movement. In addition to her concern about working women, she was troubled by child labor in the United States and attended a hearing at the U.S. Senate about a child labor law in 1907. In a letter to the editor of The Providence Journal, Algeo described the hearing. She noted how dire conditions were for child workers in places such as the Southern states and the mines in Pennsylvania. However, she made the point that Rhode Island had problems with child labor as well and that "our State needs a moral awakening in the matter of child labor as well as its fellow States." MacCormack was also active in the Rhode Island branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae and became its secretary in 1907.

In the early twentieth century, the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association (RIWSA) and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had a goal to bring more women college students and alumnae into the movement. In Rhode Island, Mrs. George Gladding, the daughter of RIWSA president, Ardelia C. Dewing, helped found a College Equal Suffrage League (CESL) in Rhode Island. The league began in December 1907, with eighteen charter members. MacCormack was one of those founding members, after Gladding had visited her home to recruit her, and became its first secretary. In her memoir, Algeo recalled her impression of the Rhode Island suffrage movement in 1907. She wrote, "Judging for the first meeting I attended, suffrage was at a low ebb in 1907. A few elderly ladies were there and the gathering, while earnest, was not exciting." She claimed that the CESL "brought in new blood and new members" to the suffrage movement.

Sara MacCormack married James W. Algeo from Providence on September 19, 1907 in a ceremony conducted by the president of Boston University. Algeo was a Spanish-American War veteran and served as secretary and treasurer of the Artesian Well and Supply Company. The couple lived in Providence and Barrington, Rhode Island, did not have any children, and belonged to Congregationalist churches. Following her marriage, Sara Algeo, usually referred to as "Sara M. Algeo" or "Mrs. James W. Algeo," continued her activism and education, but gave up her teaching career. She attended the Women's College at Brown University as a graduate student, earning an A.M. degree.

In 1911, Algeo hosted Emmeline Pankhurst, the famous, militant suffragist from England at her home when she visited Providence to give a speech. Pankhurst also stayed with Algeo on two subsequent trips to Rhode Island. Pankhurst and the issue of the militancy was a controversial one in the American woman suffrage movement. Algeo stated that, "I have always had intense admiration for the courage and generalship of Mrs. Pankhurst." In an interview with The Providence Tribune, Algeo claimed that most American suffragists believed that "militancy is not only unnecessary but would be very unwise and detrimental in its results" in the United States.

In 1912, Algeo was elected president of the CESL and pursued numerous tactics to advance the suffrage cause. During the 1912 election season, she sent a letter to each assembly candidate to get them on record their position on suffrage. This was an early political lobbying effort by Algeo that she developed further in upcoming years. She helped arrange an official headquarters office for the organization at the Butler Exchange, a building that also housed the RIWSA; James Algeo donated funds to help pay for the office. Algeo and the CESL collaborated with RIWSA and Louise Hall, a shared field organizer for the organizations, on new initiatives. One of these was a suffrage booth at the Pure Food Exposition in Providence, an annual event that the suffragists continued throughout the 1910s, reaching thousands of Rhode Islanders. In The Woman's Journal, a suffrage newspaper, Algeo wrote that the event had an expected attendance of 3,000 per day, "which offers a fine opportunity for propaganda." She said that they emphasized selling copies of The Woman's Journal at the event as a way of raising money and awareness.

The Providence Journal ran a series of well-publicized debates about woman suffrage in 1912. Sara Algeo contributed an essay that was paired with one from Mrs. Rowland G. Hazard, the leading anti-suffragist in Rhode Island. Algeo argued, "I firmly believe that the great majority of women, in their heart of hearts, do want the vote, though they have lined up on neither side, and that they see no reason why sex should mark the division carrying on the work of the world." She said that some wealthy women felt that they did not need the vote and did not want working women to get it. However, she said that, working women especially wanted the vote and that "mothers are waking up to the realization of the relation between the well-regulated home and the well-regulated Government." This maternalist idea, that women as mothers and homemakers had special concerns and duties and that suffrage would help them better protect their homes and families was a common theme for Algeo and other suffragists in the early twentieth century.

Besides her work with the CESL, Algeo served as a Rhode Island vice president for the New England Woman Suffrage Association (NEWSA); she later became a member of the Rhode Island executive committee for NEWSA. Algeo also became a supporter and campaigner for the Progressive Party in 1912. She partnered with suffragist Maud Howe Elliot, the leader of women's work for the Rhode Island Progressive Party, and they toured the state campaigning for Progressive candidates in cars decorated with party slogans. At an event hosted by the Progressive Party of Rhode Island, Algeo was seated next to Theodore Roosevelt, former president and Progressive candidate for president in 1912. She quizzed him on the issues of woman suffrage and prohibition. Rhode Island suffragists supported various parties in 1912 and Algeo participated in an informal debate sponsored by the College Equal Suffrage League, in which she represented the Progressive Party.

Algeo also was a supporter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the causes of temperance and prohibition. There were strong ties between the WCTU and suffrage movements in ideas, goals, and membership in both Rhode Island and nationally. Algeo offered her own testament to interrelated suffrage and temperance movements when Jennie L.W. Rooke, the state president of the WCTU, gifted her with two puppies. Algeo named them "Suffrage" and "Prohibition" and said they were "worthy of the great reforms they signified." Later in her life, Algeo ran for office as a temperance candidate.

By 1912, Algeo came to admire the suffrage tactics and organization of the Woman Suffrage Party in New York. She arranged for the CESL to host a speech by Carrie Chapman Catt in 1913 where she explained the Woman Suffrage Party's principles and strategies of working as a political machine to promote political organization and pressure. The week after Catt's talk in 1913, Rhode Island suffragists led by Algeo formed the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party (RIWSP) with Algeo as chairman. The organization would create political wards throughout the state and conduct door to door canvassing to "bring the movement before the people and educate them for the civic duties we feel will be theirs in the near future." RIWSP emerged out of the CESL but was an independent organization with Algeo as its leader. She remained a member of the CESL and RIWSA but the focus of her suffrage work was through RIWSP. The RIWSP engaged in new suffrage outreach efforts, political lobbying, public speeches, and created new high-profile events in Rhode Island such as an annual suffrage bazaar that raised money and awareness for the cause. RIWSP often shared membership and events with RIWSA and both organizations were affiliated with NAWSA.

RIWSP was an unusually diverse organization in the Rhode Island and national suffrage movement. It had higher numbers of Jewish and Catholic members and a number of its members, like Algeo, were first and second-generation immigrants. It also was a rare interracial organization that allowed Black members. Algeo reported that an early RIWSP meeting had fourteen people present and ten of them were Black women. Algeo spoke on woman suffrage at the convention of the Rhode Island Union of Colored Women's Clubs in 1913. The organization voted to endorse a statement of support for the woman suffrage movement at the convention. Algeo noted that this suffrage endorsement by the colored women's union was the "only endorsement received from any large body of women in the State before ratification took place." In 1914, the Providence Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appointed Algeo to their advisory council.

Algeo and RIWSP utilized varied tactics to advance suffrage in Rhode Island. To help improve her skills, Algeo attended a suffrage school conducted by Carrie Chapman Catt in New York in 1913. She also brought in high-profile speakers to Providence such as Catt, Anna Howard Shaw, and Emmeline Pankhurst. The editor of the RIWSA newspaper, The Woman Citizen, allowed RIWSP to put out a special issue of the newspaper in November 1913. As part of their effort to engage in more public suffrage activity, in November 1913, RIWSP held its first "Woman's Journal Day," where members sold copies of the suffrage journal on Providence streets. Algeo wrote in The Woman's Journal that "Woman's Journal Day was the greatest in the history of the suffrage work in Rhode Island since my advent into it six years ago." She noted that over thirty women sold newspapers and claimed the event pushed the anti-suffrage opponents to get their own headquarters. The Woman's Journal, in turn, praised Algeo's effort, writing, "the women of [Rhode Island], led by Mrs. Sara M. Algeo, purchased 3500 Journals to sell...They have given the cause in their State a big boost. Can you do as much for your State?"

Besides her activity in Rhode Island, Algeo attended the famous woman suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. in March 1913. She was the only member of the Rhode Island delegation at the march, helped sell copies of The Woman's Journal, and said she was proud "to represent the smallest State in the union in the greatest march ever made by women of this country." She praised Alice Paul and Lucy Burns for their "glorious work" to make the parade possible. Algeo gave a speech at RIWSA and wrote an article in RIWSA's The Woman Citizen newspaper about her experiences at the parade. Although she did not experience the mistreatment and disruption at the parade by the police and bystanders that many other suffragists reported, she bemoaned that, "what might have been one of the finest spectacles the country has ever witnessed was in a great measure destroyed by the inaction of the police."

Algeo and RIWSP increased their political organizing and lobbying in 1914 to advocate for a presidential suffrage bill which would allow women to vote in presidential elections. It had first been introduced by Rhode Island suffragists in 1892 and had never advanced to a full vote in the General Assembly since then. RIWSP was determined to get the bill out of committee and voted on successfully. In The Providence Journal, Algeo stressed the importance of the bill. If passed in 1914, she stated:

our State would lead the 13 original colonies and securing this important bit of franchise...If not, then Rhode Island is likely to come trailing in after the last New England State. Rhode Island women are prepared for suffrage now, and now is the time that this bill, the presidential suffrage bill, for which they have worked so hard for the past 20 years, should be passed and passed gladly.

Algeo and the RIWSP legislative committee implemented new political tactics to advocate for the bill and became savvy political operatives. In January 1914, Sara M. Algeo and Nettie E. Bauer registered with the secretary of state as official lobbyists for RIWSP to conduct political work in the Rhode Island State House. In February, Algeo participated in a political effort at the Rhode Island State House in which "woman suffragists stormed the State House...and made a verbal assault upon the members of the General Assembly." RIWSP members "buttonholed" members of the legislature, confronting them in State House corridors, stairs, and elsewhere to promote the presidential suffrage bill. They started a project to interview every member of the Rhode Island House and Senate about woman suffrage. Algeo also joined with other suffragists to "invade" the Rhode Island Republican convention in 1914 to pressure the party to include support for woman suffrage on their platform. They did not succeed in getting woman suffrage on the platform in 1914. Algeo had better luck with the Rhode Island branch of the American Federation of Labor. She gave a speech on the presidential suffrage bill at its annual convention in 1914; after her speech, the AFL member overwhelmingly voted to endorse the suffrage bill.

RIWSP sent letters to legislators, especially members of the judiciary committee, begging that the bill be given a fair vote. In a letter to the editor, Algeo issued a threat to the politicians, saying that those who opposed the bill "should not be surprised if they find [the Suffrage Party] which has been treated in this unstatemanlike manner stumping the State against their re-election next fall." Algeo and RIWSP conducted an extensive study into the voting records and political background of all members of the Rhode Island House and Senate. They determined that there were 35 members who were most opposed to woman suffrage and decided to target the ones they deemed the worst to ensure they were not re-elected in the fall 1914 elections. Algeo said that she wanted "to clean up this rotten, old [political] machine" and that it was her "business is to kill off legislators who are opposed to us, as it were." Algeo kept true to her threat to politicians and RIWSP created several flyers targeting the individual legislators and Algeo and other members gave open-air speeches denouncing those politicians. In a letter to the editor in The Providence Journal, Algeo criticized politicians and others who opposed the suffrage bill. She argued that "There seems to be but three kinds of opposition: the liquor dealers, who do not want suffrage through fear of it; the few anti-suffragists, who are afraid of democracy, and some corrupt politicians who use these women as a mask to cloak their own self interests." RIWSP put together a one-off newspaper, The Woman Suffrage Party News, as a way of raising awareness, applying political pressure, and making money by selling advertisements. Among other issues, the newspaper highlighted Rhode Island politicians who were suffrage allies.

In addition to their political lobbying, in 1914 Algeo and RIWSP put on a "Votes for Women" week filled with extensive events and activism at the end of April and beginning of May in 1914. NAWSA had announced a national week of suffrage events in all states, culminating with a "Woman's Independence Day" on May 2. During the planning states for the Rhode Island "Votes for Women" week, Alice Paul, president of the Congressional Union suffrage organization, met with Algeo at her home in Rhode Island, offered suggestions about a parade or mass demonstration, and they conducted an interview together with The Providence Tribune. RIWSP organized a varied series of events for the "Votes for Women" week, with each day having its own theme. They arranged with local stores to have window displays with suffrage merchandise and suffrage colors and for theatres to show suffrage films and plays, allow suffrage speakers, and to sell suffrage merchandise. Suffragists held open meetings throughout the state, sold copies of The Woman's Journal in the streets, threw a suffrage ball with four hundred attendees, and raised money with a rummage sale. On "Church Day" the suffragists requested that clergymen speak in support of woman suffrage. The week wrapped up with a day-long series of events at Roger Williams Park in honor of "Woman's Independence Day," including children's activities, a tree planting in honor of noted social reformer Jane Addams, entertainment, and speeches from national leaders including Stephen S. Wise, a prominent rabbi and social activist, and local suffragists. The Woman's Journal praised the Rhode Island events, reporting that, "Mrs. Sara M. Algeo, chairman of the Woman Suffrage Party, has done some truly wonderful work here."

By 1914, there were three prominent suffrage organizations in Rhode Island--the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association, the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party, and the College Equal Suffrage League. A joint committee was created to help coordinate their efforts. By 1915, some of the suffrage leaders wanted to amalgamate the organizations officially. The amalgamation of the three organization took place after the various organizations voted to support the change and the new organization was called the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association (RIESA). Algeo opposed the amalgamation of the three organizations and loss of independence for RIWSP. She was out of town when the merger took place and when she returned in the fall of 1915, she made the decision to re-establish the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party as an independent body under the name the Providence Woman Suffrage Party (PWSP) with a group of like-minded supporters. The organization later reverted to the name the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party. Like its previous iteration, the PWSP was affiliated with NAWSA. The PWSP and RIESA were competing organizations that performed similar kind of suffrage work and occasionally collaborated tentatively on joint efforts. In addition to her work with PWSP, when a Rhode Island branch of the CU was created in 1916, Algeo became a member and participated in several meetings and events. However, she was a marginal member of the CU and the bulk of her efforts were for the PWSP.

In April 1917, the state legislature finally passed a presidential suffrage bill, which Rhode Island suffragists had been campaigning for since 1892. The Providence Journal interviewed Algeo about this major victory for the Rhode Island suffrage movement and she declared, "Do you realize that this has come after 25 years of effort and that we are rejoiced. I am even more delighted from the point of view of the national association because it makes us the 17th State to get presidential suffrage. We are the first State east of the Ohio to get this..." In her memoir, Algeo wrote, "We sought this goal with a tenacity of purpose which never faulted." Suffragists had first raised the presidential suffrage cause in Rhode Island in 1892 and she felt that "We became a sort of experiment station for this brand of suffrage and were in honor bound to carry it to a proper finale."

Soon after the presidential suffrage victory, Algeo and many other local suffragists devoted themselves to supporting the American war effort in World War I. Locally and nationally, NAWSA members believed that women's war voluntarism would demonstrate their patriotism and citizenship and help advance the suffrage cause. Algeo served as chair of the Rhode Island branch of the Women's Overseas Hospital Committee, an effort created by NAWSA to raise money for a hospital in war-torn France, primarily to serve women and children but also wounded or ill soldiers in emergencies. (Note: The History of Woman Suffrage, volume 6, incorrectly states that Mrs. LeBaron B. Colt was chair of this committee. Algeo was chair and she was assisted by Colt's daughter-in-law, Mrs. LeBaron C. Colt.) Colt and Algeo organized fundraisers, gave speeches, procured donations from prominent individuals and friends, and sold candy; in total, the Rhode Island effort raised $3,000 dollars for the hospital.

Algeo participated in other patriotic events during the war. In May 1917, she dressed as the "Goddess of Liberty" at a celebration of the anniversary of Rhode Island passing the Declaration of Independence. She wrote and read a poem titled "Liberty" that referenced the recent presidential suffrage victory. She wrote that women should take "this precious prove to our neighbors, East and West, that Rhode Island Women can stand the test." She also wore this costume at events to help sell liberty war bonds. In addition, Algeo worked to help pass prohibition during the war. In The Providence Journal, Algeo encouraged temperance supporters to send telegrams to President Woodrow Wilson urging him to pass prohibition as an emergency war measure.

Suffragists were also deeply involved in Americanization activities in Rhode Island during and after World War I. During the war, xenophobic concerns about immigrants in the United States intensified. Americanization efforts to integrate foreign-born residents into American society by teaching them ideas and practices of language, religion, work, and family to replace their native ones, at times against their will. Some suffragists held nativist ideas about immigrants being a threat to American society. However, they also feared that concerns about foreigners could undermine the suffrage effort and sought to reassure native-born Americans that foreign-born women could be trusted as voters if woman suffrage passed.

Algeo chaired the Rhode Island Woman's Americanization Committee, a state branch of the NAWSA national committee on Americanization. She had deep roots in temperance and working girls' clubs, movements that worked to assimilate immigrants into American society at the turn of the century. She made the argument that Americanization was especially important to the nation because of World War I. She argued that Americanization would advance national identity and patriotism during wartime and that "a homogeneous, coherent, unified citizenship is a greater security than a heterogeneous mass of unrelated non-English-speaking groups." The Rhode Island population, at the time, she noted, was roughly one-third foreign born. She continued that woman suffrage and Americanization could work in tandem as an added incentive for "loyalty and patriotism on the part of our foreign-born population." Algeo and the Rhode Island Americanization Committee successfully lobbied for a bill that would make English education mandatory for foreign-born residents and appoint a state director of Americanization. When lobbying for the Americanization bill in 1919, Algeo came into conflict with Arthur P. Sumner, the Speaker of the Rhode Island House. Algeo had vigorously attacked and campaigned against Sumner due to his opposition to the presidential suffrage bill in 1914. Now Sumner banned her from the House chamber and when other representatives approached him on her behalf, he angrily told them, "Tell Mrs. Algeo to go to hell."

Algeo and RIWSP also created a pamphlet, Suggestions to the Women Voters of Rhode Island, to advance the cause of Americanization and explain to foreign-born women how to qualify for the right to vote, that they distributed widely across the state. As Algeo explained in The Woman Citizen, the NAWSA newspaper, the campaign to reach foreign-born women in the United States should be so thorough that "no women in 1920 should be able to say 'I would like to vote if I could, but no one told me about taking the first steps in time.'" In order to be able to vote for president in 1920, Algeo explained that foreign-born women needed to start the naturalization process by 1918. Algeo and the RIWSP also organized an event for "Rhode Island Women's Independence Day" for July 1, 1919, the day that women could start registering as voters for the 1920 presidential election. A ceremony with women, politicians, and children was held on the steps of Providence City Hall and Algeo again dressed as the "Goddess of Liberty." Approximately 850 Providence women registered to vote on that day.

In 1919, as the suffrage amendment drew nearer, NAWSA made plans to transition its organization to the League of Women Voters, to continue its political and social advocacy. In Rhode Island several organizations were created. The major competing ones emerged out of RIESA as the League of Women Voters, Rhode Island Division and from the RIWSP, Algeo created the Providence League of Women Voters (later a subgroup of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters.) Also in 1919, Algeo became involved in another organizational controversy with the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Party. She had founded the organization in 1913 and then reestablished it in 1915 after defecting from the amalgamation with RIWSA. For six years, she had served as its chairman. In 1919, though, the RIWSP nominating committee recommended voting out Algeo as chairman of the organization and replacing her with Leila Andrews. At the annual meeting in a contentious vote, the membership elected Andrews chairman of the organization, ousting Algeo. The specific details of the conflict are unclear, but reports in The Providence Journal use words such as "bitter contest," "insurgents," "overthrow," and "protracted debate" to describe it. The Journal referred to the election as "a contest between the old and the new elements of the organization." Algeo continued as president of the new Providence League of Women Voters Like RIWSP, the Providence League of Women Voters was an interracial group of women, unusual for the League of Women Voters.

Algeo participated with other suffrage leaders in 1919 to convince Governor Livingston Beeckman to call a special session of the legislation to ratify the federal suffrage amendment. She met with the governor to lobby him and published a letter to the governor in The Providence Journal about the importance of the ratification session. Beeckman did decide to hold a special session for ratification and in January 1920, the General Assembly voted to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment and the governor signed it. Algeo attended the official signing with other prominent Rhode Island suffragists. Beeckman awarded her one of four pens used in the ceremony and wrote her a letter in recognition of her efforts and importance in the Rhode Island suffrage movement. Algeo hosted a banquet the night of the suffrage signing with prominent political leaders and suffragists. A month after the ratification success, Algeo and other leading Rhode Island suffragists attended NAWSA's annual convention in Chicago in February 1920. The convention was intended to celebrate the progress made toward the suffrage amendment, mark the transition of the national organization to the League of Women Voters, and set goals and strategies for continued activism.

Later in 1920, Algeo represented the United States at the International Suffrage Alliance convention in Switzerland. The American delegation including twenty-four women, including Carrie Chapman Catt. Before the trip, suffrage colleagues presented to Algeo a brooch and journal to thank her for her many efforts in the movement. Algeo wrote about the international event, explaining, "With victory assured in the United States what a joy it was to American women to congregate with women of every nationality...and build up plans for future action and usefulness!" At the convention, Catt gave a speech in which she urged "women who had proved themselves leaders, especially in suffrage work, were well suited for legislative work" and should serve in government.

When Algeo returned from Europe she decided to run for the Republican nomination for a state senate seat, the first woman in Rhode Island after the ratification to seek an elected position. She said that "she believed that she was carrying out the principles advocated by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt" and would run on a platform of "Women and Children First." In interview with a newspaper wire service, Algeo explained her "Women and Children First" slogan "means that in the mad scramble by men to enact legislation for their own sex women and children are forgotten...Now that the women have the vote we propose to remedy the situation. Why not women and children first for a while?" Throughout her suffrage career, Algeo had expressed this maternalist idea, that women were more moral and nurturing than men and would vote and improve society in order to protect women and children. Algeo did not secure the nomination and ran again in 1922.

In 1922, Algeo ran as an independent candidate for a legislative position representing the town of Barrington. The Algeos had bought a summer home in Barrington in 1912 and moved there permanently in 1921. The Providence Journal referred to Algeo as one of the "Women Political Leaders in the State" and noted that she was one of nine women candidates running for state office in 1922. Her campaign poster said that her platform was "A Square Deal," a phrase from Theodore Roosevelt that she had frequently used throughout her suffrage essays and speeches. There was no obvious challenger for the seat. However, Algeo claimed the Republican political machine was unwilling to have a woman in the position. Instead, she wrote, "a man candidate literally had to be corralled, dragged in the by the scruff of his neck, so to speak, for the office; but a man was procured at last and put into office by the machine." During the election, Algeo claimed that former Governor Beeckman supported her candidacy. Beeckman, however, challenged this assertion and declared that he had never discussed the matter with her nor had he seen her in the past six months. Algeo lost the election and did not run again for political office until 1932, ten years later.

Starting in 1919 and continuing after the suffrage amendment ratification, Algeo was active in the League of Women Voters. She was chair of the Providence League of Women Voters (PLWV). There were many different League of Women Voters' organizations in Rhode Island and in the fall of 1920, there was an effort to amalgamate them into the United League of Women Voters of Rhode Island. The Rhode Island League of Women Voters and the Providence League of Women Voters remained as independent organizations. Algeo did collaborate with the United League on a committee to raise money for the Anna Howard Shaw memorial and the Americanization committee.

A key issue that Algeo worked on was an effort to get rid of a property ownership requirement for voting in the city of Providence. The property requirement limited the ability for women to vote despite the Nineteenth Amendment. Algeo criticized it as, "a remnant of the dark ages" and a "moth-eaten antique." In 1922, Algeo and the PLWV held a "voiceless" protest at the State House in which they displayed placards with their complaints for state senators and representatives to read as they passed by.

In addition, with her interracial league branch, Algeo continued her advocacy for African Americans and civil rights issues. She lobbied for a Civil Rights bill in 1920 that would ban discrimination in public accommodations in Rhode Island. She also supported a federal anti-lynching bill. In the late 1920s, Algeo also became involved in local Native American activism and was inducted into the Algonquin Indian Council. Algeo and the PLWV also offered civic classes for women and advocated for mothers' pensions, protective legislation to protect women and child workers, and the enforcement of prohibition.

In 1916, Algeo was a minor member of the Rhode Island Congressional Union that was affiliated with Alice Paul's national organization, Later, in 1923, Algeo became chair of a new Rhode Island branch of the National Woman's Party, a position she served in until 1938. She declared, "I am a feminist first, last and all of the time." As head of the RINWP, Algeo advocated for women to be allowed to serve on juries and to end unequal pay for women teachers, and the end of protective legislation for women. She explained that she had previously supported protective legislation for women workers before the suffrage amendment because women workers needed protective from labor abuses. After the Nineteenth Amendment, though, Algeo claimed that protective legislation hurt rather than helped women workers. She lobbied for a bill that would limit ALL workers, regardless of sex, to forty-eight hours work per week. As a NWP leader, Algeo became a strong supporter of Alice Paul's proposed Equal Rights Amendment that would prevent legal discrimination against women. She argued that the amendment, was the "most natural step to follow woman suffrage" and that "it [is] a simple matter of justice that under the Constitution women should have equal rights with men."

Sara M. Algeo published The Story of a Sub-Pioneer, a memoir about her work as a leader in the Rhode Island woman suffrage movement in 1925. Algeo explained that Carrie Chapman Catt had discouraged her from writing the book because she believed that it would be too similar to accounts written by other suffrage leaders. Algeo disagreed with Catt, though, and wrote that "there are few volumes written by the common garden variety of suffragists. They are all written by the extraordinary, the distinguished, the great." The book's title was a play on former NAWSA president, Anna Howard Shaw's memoir, titled "The Story of a Pioneer." Algeo explained that she started writing the book because she needed something to fill her time once suffrage was achieved and to support the ongoing women's rights movement. She wanted to inspire young women to appreciate "their sacred rights of citizenship" and to work for "true equality." She ended the foreword to the book with the plea that, "The time has come for another generation of pioneers to carry forward the feminist movement toward a far higher standard if Equal Rights for men and women are to be attained."

In 1932, Algeo ran for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent dry (anti-alcohol) candidate. She said that she would withdraw from the race if a Republican candidate endorsed prohibition. In a campaign flyer, Algeo described herself as a Republican who pledged to support President Hoover and his policies that she called "sound and should be continued;" chairman of the Rhode Island National Woman's Party who would work for "equal rights before the law for men and women;" and a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union who wanted to "uphold and enforce the 18th Amendment [for prohibition]." As with her two previous political campaigns, Algeo did not succeed in the election.

Besides her activism and political campaigns, Algeo and her husband made two trips around the world. During the first trip in 1929, Algeo interviewed Mahatma Gandhi in Bombay, India. James W. Algeo died in 1945. He reportedly spent thousands of dollars supporting the woman suffrage movement. Sara M. Algeo died in 1953 at her home in Barrington and was buried in Woodside Cemetery in Cohasset, Massachusetts. The Providence Journal heralded her as "one of the state's most ardent workers for prohibition and women's rights." Algeo left behind important records about her activism. Her memoir provides a wealth of information and primary documents about Algeo's life, the Rhode Island suffrage movement, and the national movement. The Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute has collections of her correspondence and postcards, and her scrapbook of newspaper clippings. The National American Woman Suffrage Association Records in the Library of Congress has an extensive collection of correspondence to and from Algeo, photographs, and newspaper clippings. She is a significant and revealing example of the work done on the state level for woman suffrage.


From Sara M. Algeo, The Story of a Sub-Pioneer (Providence, R.I.: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925).


Selling copies of The Woman's Journal in Providence, 1913. Algeo is on the far left. From Sara M. Algeo, The Story of a Sub-Pioneer (Providence, R.I.: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925), 146.


Sara M. Algeo with her dogs, "Suffrage" and Prohibition" from Sara M. Algeo, The Story of a Sub-Pioneer (Providence, R.I.: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925), 250.


"Two Rhode Island Workers," The Woman's Journal 48, No. 16 (April 28, 1917), 97.


Algeo as "The Goddess of Liberty" on Registration Day (1919) from National American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File, 1851-1953; Algeo, Sara M.; 2 of 9. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association records.,0.123,0.683,0.341,0.


American Delegation to the International Suffrage Alliance (1920) from National American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File, -1953; Algeo, Sara M.; 2 of 9. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association records.,0.008,0.957,0.478,0


Algeo Campaign Poster (1922) from National American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File, -1953; Algeo, Sara M.; 8 of 9. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association records.,0.777,1.611,0.832,0.


Photograph of Rhode Island National Woman's Party members (1922). Algeo standing, far left. From "Mrs. H. Havemeyer visits Republican Committee on behalf of ERA- Rhode Island, 1923." The National Woman's Party.


Sara M. Algeo campaign flyer, 1932 from American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File,; Algeo, Sara M.; 8 of 9. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, National American Woman Suffrage Association records.


Harper, Ida Husted ed.  The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922 [LINK].

Acts and Resolves passed by the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations at the January Session, A.D. 1920. Providence, RI: E.L. Freeman Company, Printers, 1920.

"A Half Century of Suffrage." The Providence Journal, June 1, 1919.

Algeo, Sara M. "$5 a Week Vs. $7 a Half Hour." The Woman's Journal 47, No. 50 (December 9, 1916), 394.

Algeo, Sara M. "Aiding to Enfranchise Foreign-Born Women." The Providence Sunday Journal, March 17, 1918.

Algeo, Sara M. "As Women View Proposed Laws." The Providence Journal, March 28, 1920

Algeo, Sara M. "Both Sides of Woman Suffrage." The Providence Journal, January 14, 1912.

Algeo, Sara M. "Discrimination in Salaries of Men and Women Teachers." The Providence Journal, March 23, 1924.

Algeo, Sara M. "Equal Rights for Women." The Providence Journal, September 16, 1941.

Algeo, Sara M. "Equal Suffrage Notes." The Providence Journal, June 25, 1911.

Algeo, Sara M. "Mr Lippitt and Suffrage." The Providence Journal, August 16, 1914.

Algeo, Sara M. "National Prohibition Urged as Emergency War Measure." The Providence Journal, April 29, 1917.

Algeo, Sara M. "Overseas Hospitals." The Providence Journal, July 14, 1918.

Algeo, Sara M. "Property Qualification Creates Ill Feeling Among Voters." The Providence Journal, January 8, 1922.

Algeo, Sara M. "Putting Suffrage Delay up to the Governor." The Providence Journal, August 17, 1919.

Algeo, Sara M. "Registration of Women Voters." The Providence Journal, May 16, 1920.

Algeo, Sara M. "Rhode Island Ratification Day." The Woman Citizen, 4, No. 27 (January 24, 1920): 762-763.

Algeo, Sara M. "Rhode Island Women Alert." The Woman's Journal 44, No. 44 (November 1, 1913), 345.

Algeo, Sara M. "Some States Give Teachers Equal Pay for Equal Work." The Providence Journal, January 2, 1927.

Algeo, Sara M. Suggestions to the Women Voters of Rhode Island. Providence: Remington Press, 1919.

Algeo, Sara M. Ten Points for a 48 Hour Bill for Persons. Providence: Providence League of Women Voters, 1923.

Algeo, Sara M. The Story of a Sub-Pioneer. Providence, RI: Snow & Farnham Co., 1925. HathiTrust Digital Library.

Algeo, Sara M. "The Washington Parade." The Woman Citizen (Rhode Island) 9, No. 3 (March 1913): 2-3.

Algeo, Sara M. "Will Women Use the Ballot?." The Providence Journal, June 15, 1919.

Algeo, Sara M. "Women and Jobs." The Providence Journal, March 4, 1931.

Algeo, Sara M. "Women and Night Work." The Providence Journal, December 24, 1931.

Algeo, Sara M. "Women Enlist in Registration Work." The Providence Journal, March 26, 1922.

Algeo, Sara M. "Women Want a Share of Municipal Housekeeping." The Providence Journal, December 12, 1915.

"Allied Forces Launch Lively Campaign." The Newport Mercury (Newport, Rhode Island), October 14, 1932.

"A Worker in Rhode Island." The Woman's Journal 48, No. 16 (April 28, 1917), 97.

"Barrington Women out for Assembly." The Providence Journal, September 29, 1922.

"Battle in Voters' League at Climax." The Providence Journal, December 20, 1924.

"Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: General Correspondence, Circa 1890 to 1947; Algeo, Sara M. Library of Congress.

"Celebration of Rhode Island Women's Independence Day Held Yesterday in Front of City Hall," Providence Journal July 2, 1919.

"Charter Granted to Women Voters." The Providence Journal, November 4, 1919.

"Chronicles of a Suffrage Leader." The Providence Sunday Journal, December 13, 1925.

Courage, Hollie, "President's Message--League History." The Leaguer: The Newsletter of the League of Women Voters of Providence (February 1995).

DeSimone, Russell J. "Sara M. Algeo. Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.

"End of Race Riots Demanded by Clubs." The Providence Journal, August 2, 1919.

"Governor Beeckman, Prominent Woman Suffrage Workers and General Assembly Leaders Laud Passage of Bill by Rhode Island Legislature." The Providence Journal, April 18, 1917.

"Governor to Try Again for Session." The Providence Journal, July 15, 1919.

"James W. Algeo, 82, Dies in Barrington." The Providence Journal, January 30, 1945.

Jenks, Agnes M. "That Suffrage Resolution." The Providence Journal, November 29, 1916.

"Journal - Rhode Island College Suffrage League - December 11, 1907." Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association Records, 1868-1930. Rhode Island State Archives, Providence, Rhode Island.

Leonard, John William, ed. Women's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. New York: The American Commonwealth Co., 1914.

"Local Delegates to Victory Convention." The Providence Journal, February 8, 1920.

MacCormack, Sara L. "Child Labor Here and Elsewhere." The Providence Journal, March 24, 1907.

Miller, Elisa. "Uncovering the Lives of Ordinary Rhode Island Suffragists, The Bridge: A Joint Edition of the Journals of Newport History and Rhode Island History (Fall 2020): 19-45.

"Mrs. Algeo Again Heads Suffragists." The Providence Journal, October 1, 1914.

"Mrs. Algeo Analyzes One-Language Plan," The Evening Times (Pawtucket, Rhode Island), March 12, 1919.

"Mrs. Algeo Asks Support for State Senate Seat." The Providence Journal, September 25, 1920.

"Mrs. Algeo Denied by G.O.P. Leaders." The Providence Journal, September 30, 1922.

"Mrs. Algeo Heads Suffrage League." The Providence Journal, November 21, 1919.

"Mrs. Algeo Seeks Seat in Congress," The Providence Journal, September 22, 1932.

"Mrs. Algeo Will Seek Senatorship." The Providence Journal, September 9, 1920.

"Mrs. H. Havemeyer visits Rhode Island Republican Committee on behalf of ERA-Providence, 1924." The National Woman's Party.

"Mrs Jas. Algeo." Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

"Mrs. J.W. Algeo." The Providence Journal, December 18, 1915.

"Mrs. J.W. Algeo Announces Her Candidacy for Senate Seat." The Providence Journal, September 9, 1920.

"Mrs. J.W. Algeo Elected Temporary Head of Suffrage." The Providence Journal, December 18, 1915.

"Nation Celebrates Woman's Independence Day." The Woman's Journal 45, No. 18 (May 2, 1914), 138

"National American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File, 1851-1953; Algeo, Sara M." Library of Congress.

"National American Woman Suffrage Association Records: Subject File, -1953; Congressional Union; Jenks, Agnes M." Library of Congress.

"Nine Women Candidates Oppose Men for State Office This Fall." The Providence Journal, October 27, 1922.

"Pawtucket." The Providence Journal, April 14, 1914.

"Records of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, 1893-1977." Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence, RI.

"Rhode Island Astir." The Woman's Journal 43, No. 8 (February 24, 1912), 57.

"Rhode Island Women Hear Dr. Thomas." The Woman's Journal 43, No. 5 (February 3, 1912), 37.

"R.I. Congressmen Canvassed for Equal Rights Measure." The Providence Journal, January 8, 1925.

"Sarah [sic] M. Algeo Dies at Age 77." The Providence Journal, November 18, 1953.

Scotti, Kiki. "Women in Our Past; Feminist from First to Last." The Providence Journal, September 4, 1967.

"Suffragist Hits Eaton and Sumner," Providence Daily Journal (Providence, RI), October 27, 1914.

Sterne, Evelyn Savidge. Ballots and Bibles: Ethnic Politics and the Catholic Church in Providence. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004.

"Sara Algeo (?). Scrapbook pages with clippings re: Rhode Island suffrage organizing, 1915-1917." Papers of Edna Lamprey Stantial, 1836-1985 (inclusive), 1900-1955 (bulk), Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts

"Sara Algeo. Letters Received, 1909-1920. Papers of Edna Lamprey Stanital, 1836-1985 (inclusive, 1900-1955 (bulk). Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Sara Louisa [sic] MacCormack Algeo." Find a Grave.

"Sara MacCormack Algeo." Her Hat Was in the Ring.

"Sara MacCormack Algeo." Wikipedia.

"States's Suffrage Forces Celebrate Assembly Victory." The Evening Bulletin (Providence, Rhode Island), January 7, 1920.

"Suffrage Advocates and Senators at State House." The Providence Journal, February 11, 1915

"Suffrage Leaders Invade Convention." The Providence Journal, October 8, 1914.

"Suffrage Party Elects New Head." The Providence Journal, November 6, 1919.

"Suffragists Here Meet to Organize." The Providence Journal, August 12, 1913.

"Suffragists Poll Candidates." The Providence Journal, November 2, 1912.

"Suffrage Postcards of Sara M. Algeo, 1912-1913." Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Suffrage Workers Celebrate Victory." The Providence Journal, January 7, 1920.

"Suffragists Here Planning Parade." The Providence Journal, January 25, 1914.

"Suffragists Join in Patriotic Celebration." The Woman's Journal 48, No. 19 (May 12, 1917), 111.

"The Political Sisterhood Lines Up," The Providence Journal, July 20, 1919.

"Two Rhode Island Workers," The Woman's Journal 48, No. 16 (April 28, 1917), 97.

"Toupin Condemned as Narrow Leader." The Providence Journal, April 25, 1923.

"'Votes for Women' Plea in Assembly." The Providence Journal, February 11, 1915.

"What Two Years of Woman Suffrage Have Done." Providence Sunday Journal, August 13, 1922.

"Woman's Journal Business." The Woman's Journal 44, No. 45 (November 8, 1913), 357.

"Woman Suffrage Leaders Watching Signing of Rhode Island's Ratification." The Providence Journal, January 8, 1920.

"Woman Suffrage Plans for Week Nearly Complete." The Evening Bulletin (Providence, RI), April 24, 1914.

"Woman Suffragists Plead Their Cause." The Providence Journal, April 5, 1911.

"'Women and Children First!' Cry of Mrs. Algeo, Senate Candidate." The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida), September 26, 1920.

"Women Candidates in R.I Political Campaign." The Providence Journal, October 27, 1922.

"Women Give 'Voiceless Speech' in State House." The Providence Journal, March 29, 1922.

"Women Political Leaders in the State; Mrs. Sarah [sic] M. Algeo." The Providence Journal, September 30, 1922.

"Women Voters Ask for Many Reforms." The Providence Journal, November 19, 1922.

Yates, Elizabeth Upham. "The Outlook in Rhode Island." The Woman's Journal 44, No. 44 (November 1, 1913), 346.

back to top