Bryn Mawrters as Suffragists:
The National College Equal Suffrage League
To encourage the recruitment of college-educated women to the suffrage cause, Maud Wood Park formed the National College Equal Suffrage League (NCESL), a subgroup of the larger NAWSA, in 1906. M. Carey Thomas became the League's first president. Thomas's companion, Mary E. Garrett, became the group's finance chairman and treasurer, and Dean Marion Reilly became the chairman of its membership committee. Bryn Mawr's prominence in the NCESL established the College as a center of pro-suffrage activity.
|M. Carey Thomas (1857-1935)
President, Bryn Mawr College, 1894-1922
|Mary E. Garrett (1853-1915)
Director, Bryn Mawr College, 1906-1915
|Marion Reilly '01 (1879-1928)
Dean, Bryn Mawr College, 1907-1916
The NCESL chapter at Bryn Mawr had "one-fourth of the students and several of the faculty," The Lantern reported in 1908. By the spring before the outbreak of World War I in 1914, 220 undergraduates, graduates and members of the faculty were members. In addition to sponsoring lecturers, the Chapter held pro-suffrage activities and meetings on campus, established a pro- and anti-suffrage literature collection in the library, and participated in marches and other events in Philadelphia and throughout the East Coast.
The number of members and activities shrank in the latter years of the 1910s, perhaps because of the distractions of the war. The president of the College's NCESL chapter blamed the organization's doldrums on the absence of an effective anti-suffrage presence on campus.
For any movement to have vigour and life, there must be opposition of some sort. Here, in Bryn Mawr, the League has no Anti-Suffrage League with which it must fight for its life. Hence, the League is apathetic in action and feeling. Two things, however, make the League worth while; first, it helps to support the National College Equal Suffrage Association; and second, it helps to keep the individual members in touch with their home leagues.
The Lantern, Spring 1915, reported by Lucile Davidson '15, President of the NCESA, 1914-1915.
Although suffrage speakers continued to visit campus until the spring of 1920, the League's role as the campus's pro-suffrage voice gradually diminished. The College News reported in its May 19th, 1920, issue that the club would disband "because it is no longer useful...[and] interest in the club is almost nil."
National American Woman Suffrage Association