Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Minnie Hennessey
By Kelly Marino, Sacred Heart University
Little information exists about suffragist Minnie Hennessey [also spelled Henesy, Hennesy, and Hennessy]. She lived as a boarder at 118 Main Street in Hartford between 1909 and 1917, the year she was arrested in the October 1917 suffrage demonstrations of the National Woman's Party in Washington, DC. She identified herself as a self-supporting businesswoman and dressmaker. She worked for G. Fox and Company's Hartford department store in the alteration department from May 1913 forward. She asked for a week's leave of absence from work to take part in the picketing. G. Fox and Company executives, interviewed by the media about her involvement in the demonstrations, publicly came out in support of her activism, saying at least initially that they would not dismiss her from her job for participating.
Despite being not well known in suffrage circles, Hennessey had been a member of the National Woman's Party since the group was organized in Connecticut in 1916. She publicly declared that picketing, in particular, was the only way to make people "'sit up and take notice'" of the suffrage issue and viewed the Nineteenth Amendment's passage as an important war measure. When the NWP began to send pickets to protest women's inequality with banners outside the White House in January 1917, she supposedly marched into state NWP headquarters and asked to be involved in the demonstrations. Given that she was a working woman, single, and of modest means, her trip and later bail were paid by wealthier state activists: Helena Hill Weed and Katharine Day.
Hennessey participated in two major NWP pickets. One on October 6, 1917, where she faced arrest for the first time along with a large group of co-activists: Caroline Spencer, Vivian Pierce, Louise Kahle, Joy Young, Matilda Young, Kate Heffelfinger, Rose Winslow, Lou C. Daniels, Maude Jamieson (sometimes referred to as Jamison), and Alice Paul. It was the last day that the NWP protested the Emergency War Session of the Sixty-fifth Congress. Pickets carried the famous "Mr. President, what will you do for Woman Suffrage?" banner at this demonstration. Hennessey and others faced a rowdy crowd, which included a sailor who tore the banner from the women and trampled it. Police broke up the protest and arrested the women, charging them with obstructing traffic. Although the judge pronounced them as guilty, he did not sentence them, which allowed Hennessey and others to return to the picket line quickly. On October 15, she was arrested again along with Heffelfinger, Winslow, and Jamieson in a smaller group. Authorities sentenced the four women to six months at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. Hennessey was released early on November 27, 1917.
After her release, she continued work with the NWP into early 1918. She attended several meetings, including one at Carnegie Hall in New York, one at the state organization's headquarters at Allyn House in Hartford, and one dressed in prison garb at Unity Hall. Along with five other Hartford NWP suffragists, she also traveled to DC in January of 1918 to sit in the gallery and hear the Congressional debate on the Nineteenth Amendment.
After early 1918, the information about Hennessey fades, and she does not appear in subsequent Hartford city directories at this particular address any longer.
Gillmore, Inez Haynes. The Story of the Woman's Party. United States: Harcourt, Brace, 1921.
Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920.
Nichols, Carole. Votes and More for Women: Suffrage and After in Connecticut. United Kingdom: Institute for Research in History, 1983.
"Hartford Picket Faces Sentence of Year in Prison," Hartford Courant, October 16, 1917, 11.
"Miss Hennessey Did Her Best to Get in Workhouse," Hartford Courant, October 12, 1917, 9.
"Picketers Plan to Put Democrats Out of Business," Hartford Courant, January 8, 1918, 2.
"'Suff' Picket to Tell Comforts in Washington," Hartford Courant, January 3, 1918, 14.
"Federal Amendment Will Pass, Says Woman's Party," Hartford Courant, January 6, 1918, 19.
"Hartford Women to be in Gallery," Hartford Courant, January 9, 1918, 11.
Hartford Times (Scanned by Susan Bigelow -- no page numbers given)
"Miss Hennessey, Hartford Clerk, Included in Eleven Arrested for Picketing White House," Hartford Times, October 8, 1917.
"Miss Henesy in Jail," Hartford Times, October 16, 1917.
"Fighting Line for Miss Henesy," Hartford Times, October 12, 1917.
Geer's Hartford City Directory, entries for 1909-1917. Accessed online in Ancestry Library Edition.
Consulted with and used Information from Susan Bigelow, Reference Librarian, Government Information, History and Genealogy, Connecticut State Library.
Connecticut Historical Society
Hartford Public Library
Russell Library in Middletown, CT (Public Library)
Portland Public Library