Mawr College Library Special Collections
Susan Walker FitzGerald Papers
Part I: Description
Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Copyright 2002 by Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library
Susan Walker FitzGerald, 1913
Total Boxes: 7
Linear Feet: 3.1
Gift of Richard Leigh FitzGerald, January 8, 1990.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Susan Walker FitzGerald Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.
Susan Walker FitzGerald Papers , Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research.
Susan Walker FitzGerald was born Susan Grimes Walker on May 9, 1871 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Rear Admiral John G. Walker, U.S.N. and Rebecca White Pickering Walker. Her father, a Boston banker, was a renowned Civil War veteran and her mother was from the prominent Pickering family of Salem, Massachusetts. Following the advice and encouragement of her cousin Alice Gould who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1889, she enrolled at Bryn Mawr and graduated with a degree in political science and history in 1893. During her time at Bryn Mawr, she founded the Student Government Association and served as her class president. Following her graduation, she worked as secretary to M. Carey Thomas - from 1893 to 1894 when Thomas was dean, and from 1894 to 1895 after Thomas became Bryn Mawr's president.
Subsequently, Susan began working as the administrative head of Barnard College's first dormitory, Fiske Hall, in 1898. She was engaged to Richard Y. FitzGerald in July of 1900 and the couple married on August 3, 1901. Because men were not allowed into the dormitory, she changed jobs and served as head worker at the Richmond Hill Settlement House in New York City from 1901 to 1904. She was a prominent member of the first New York Child Labor Committee and was involved in establishing important child labor laws and in working for a compulsory education law.
Richard Y. FitzGerald was 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. He was the son of Nancy Rose McCoy and Adolphus Leigh Fitzgerald, elected to the Supreme Court of Nevada in November of 1900. Richard's family owned silver mines and a water works plant in Eureka, Nevada as well as a large ranch named Clear Creek in Redding, California.
They had four children: Anne (born 1902), Rebecca Pickering (1906), Susan (1908), and Richard Leigh (1914). All three of the daughters attended Bryn Mawr. Anne received her A.B. degree in 1924, Rebecca in 1926, and Susan in 1929. Richard attended Princeton University. Anne went on to earn a Master's degree from Radcliffe College, Rebecca earned the Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, and Susan earned an M.A. from Middlebury College.
Richard and Susan lived at the Clear Creek ranch from 1904 to 1906. They were separated for two months when their infant daughter, Rebecca, required care in San Francisco for a serious feeding problem. Richard remained on the ranch with their older daughter during this period. Susan and Rebecca returned to the ranch four days prior to the famous San Francisco earthquake.
Richard fell seriously ill with typhoid fever in 1906 and the entire family returned east by train. They settled initially at her parents' home in Washington, D.C. so that Richard could recuperate. After some serious debate Richard finally agreed to stay on the east coast. Early in 1907 Susan negotiated a paying job supervising Pauline Shaw's social work in Boston to tide them over while Richard established a new legal career. They moved to Hyde Park later in 1907, then to Jamaica Plain, Boston in 1911. Susan was active in the suffrage movement and politics, but continued her salaried work until 1913 when Richard became General Counsel of the pioneering New England Power System Companies.
Susan W. FitzGerald is best known for her long commitment to the struggle for women's suffrage and her involvement in progressive political organizations. She served as Executive Secretary of the Boson Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government in 1907 and the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association in 1911. In addition, she served as the recording secretary for the large and influential National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1911-1915. She was respected as a public speaker and participated in numerous state suffrage campaigns. Letters in the collection reflect her participation in the 1909 women's suffrage campaign in Massachusetts, the 1913 Michigan campaign, the 1915-1916 campaigns in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and the 1916 campaigns in Iowa, Utah and California. During this period, her by-line appeared three times a week in the Boston Evening Traveler (1911-1915). In 1911-12 she ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat in Boston. In 1920 Susan served as the National Committeewoman of the Women's Division of the Democratic State Committee in Massachusetts. She was elected in 1922 as the first female Democrat to the enter the Massachusetts House of Representatives; Sylvia Donaldson was elected the same year as the first female Republican. Susan served for one term from 1923 to 1925. Susan's writings include essays titled, "Women in the Home," 1908, "What is a Democracy?" 1910, and "Have We a Democracy?" 1913.
In her later years, Susan continued to be involved in politics, but devoted
much of her energy to more personal concerns, participating in Bryn Mawr alumnae
activities and in the General Alliance of Unitarian and Other Liberal Christian
Women. She died January 20, 1943.
Dates of Susan Walker FitzGerald's employment and political activities
DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION
Organization of the Collection
The collection includes seven boxes of correspondence compiled by Richard Leigh FitzGerald. The papers are arranged chronologically beginning with a few letters, postcards and memorabilia from Susan's childhood and ending with letters from the early 1920's, including letters pertaining to her term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1923-1925. The vast majority of the letters are between Susan and her husband Richard, many of them from Richard to Susan. Letters from other correspondents are filed chronologically within the same sequence. There are additional materials on Susan Walker FitzGerald in various other collections in the Bryn Mawr College Library.Bryn Mawr College Years:
Correspondence between Susan and Richard:
Susan in the Massachusetts House of
Material relating to Susan's campaign in 1922 for the Massachusetts House of Representatives and assorted documents from her term in the legislature include letters of congratulations from politicians in Massachusetts and from prominent local citizens. There are also examples of bills from both the state House and Senate which relate to Susan's interests.
PART II: Box and Folder List
Processing and description by Barbara Ward Grubb and Amanda Zehnder.
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