Suffrage and Unions

Josephine Bennett and daughters Frances and Katherine, Hartford, ca. 1916

Josephine Bennett and daughters Frances and Katherine, Hartford, ca. 1916

Connecticut women supporting the suffrage cause were also often active in fighting for other rights and protections such as protections for workers and the right to unionize.  Primarily from the middle and upper classes, CT suffrage activists knew that to be successful they needed to market the suffrage cause to working class women as well, and so drew them into the movement. The CT suffrage movement comprised women from all social and economic strata, including sales girls, garment workers, telephone operators, munitions workers and union members. A munitions worker and the president of the Woman's Machinist Union of Bridgeport, Mrs. Elsie Vervane, was a suffrage activist and one of the CT women arrested in the suffrage struggle. 

Josephine Bennett was a Connecticut Suffragist who championed worker causes. She lived on Forest St. near Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and was a member of the hereditary history organizations DAR and NSCDA, was active in the National Woman Party, founded the Hartford Equal Franchise League, and was a prominent advocate for abolishment of child labor, women's rights, equality in the workplace, pensions for mothers, and educational reform. With her husband she donated land in Katonah, NY, to create the first residential worker's school, Brookwood Labor College.

Among examples of her labor activism was her support of striking Hartford garment workers, who were arrested for allegedly punching a police officer in 1919. Josephine enlisted her attorney brother to help and brought him to court. Capitalizing on the publicity, she organzed a solidarity meeting at Liberty Theater in Hartford. 

(CT Woman Suffrage Association, State Archives, CT State Library; Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. NY: Boni & LIveright, 1920; Library of Congress;  connecticuthistory.org)