Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Susan Walker FitzGerald, 1871-1943

By Lyle Nyberg, independent historian, Scituate, Mass.

Susan Walker FitzGerald was born Susan Grimes Walker on May 9, 1871, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Rear Admiral John Grimes Walker, USN, and Rebecca White Pickering. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in political science and history in 1893. On August 3, 1901, she married Richard Y. FitzGerald, an attorney who graduated from the University of California in 1895 and Harvard Law School in 1898 and practiced primarily in New York and Boston. Susan served as head worker at the Richmond Hill Settlement House in New York City from 1901 to 1904. The couple had four children: Anne, Rebecca, Susan, and Richard. They moved to Jamaica Plain, Boston, in 1911.

Susan was extensively involved in the women's suffrage movement. She served as executive secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government (BESAGG) in 1907–1908, hired by noted American philanthropist, social reformer, and suffrage supporter Pauline Agassiz Shaw. Susan was also secretary of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association in 1911. From 1911 to 1915, Susan was recording secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Her husband Richard was a member of the Massachusetts Men's League for Woman Suffrage, which began in 1910 based on a similar league in New York. Back in 1908, when BESAGG's membership had grown to 351, Susan also served as secretary for the committee on equal suffrage lectures to women college students. This was a cause that Maud Wood Park and Inez Haynes Irwin started several years before.

Susan was well known as a speaker and suffragist. She campaigned for woman suffrage on behalf of NAWSA in Michigan, Vermont, and New Hampshire and perhaps other states. In 1912, she ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Boston School Board. In 1913, she was photographed parading in a July 30 suffrage parade in New York City. The next day she was among the suffragists who brought petitions signed by 75,000 American women to the US Capitol seeking the right to vote. In 1919 she spoke in favor of the 19th Amendment when the Massachusetts state legislature was considering ratification. In 1920, she was an alternate delegate for the Democratic slate in the Massachusetts presidential primaries. In 1922, voters elected the first women to the Massachusetts House of Representatives — Sylvia Donaldson (Republican) and Susan Walker FitzGerald (Democrat).

Susan served one term in the House of Representatives. She continued to be involved in politics, and engaged in leadership roles at the local and national levels of the Unitarian Church. She died in Boston on January 20, 1943.


"Susan Walker FitzGerald papers," Bryn Mawr College special collections, finding aid on Philadelphia Area Archives,

"Why Not Elect a Woman," Woman's Journal, January 6, 1912, p. 1.

Bain News Service, "Mrs. Sus. FitzGerald, Emma Bugby, Maggie Murphy, Mrs. H.S. Blatch," photograph (2771-10), Library of Congress,, and similar photo (2772-3) at

Boston Globe, multiple articles, including "Suffragists Urge Claims," July 31, 1913, p. 1 (with photo); "‘We Are On Probation,' Says One of Women Who Will Enter Legislature Next Week," December 31, 1922, p. 52 (with photo); "Susan Fitzgerald, Suffragette, Dies," January 21, 1943, p. 20.

Lyle Nyberg, Summer Suffragists (Scituate: by author, 2020), 69-70, 184-185 (including sources in endnotes).

Woman's Journal, multiple mentions of Susan Walker FitzGerald. Available online at "The Woman's journal and Woman's Journal and Suffrage News. Boston, 1870-1917," Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, (click on "Full Text Search" upper right to search all issues).

Ida Husted Harper et al., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922). There are nine references to Susan Walker Fitzgerald in state reports included in this volume.

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