Elsie Hill Interview

Dublin Core

Alternative Title

Women's Suffrage Movement


60min, 1/4in reel


Hill discusses her education and how she came to be a women's rights activist.




Herb Janick Papers, MS012

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Time Summary

-10min: Rome; 1907-1908; President of First National Congress of Italian Women in Rome; met Montessori, along with others within leading feminists. Leo XIII was Pope at the time and Queen Margarita and daughter of Ferri, criminologist, was examining the scene. There were two extended trips in Europe, made possible by my parents giving $1,000.00 to each child to travel until money lasted. I was personally conducted through Europe by a sister who knew where and what she wanted to see as she had been there before; 1895; with a French Huguenot Minister's family; two daughters ran the parish, there were 14-15 people; Irish girl, French girl, English, two German girls, and a few others. I lived there from October to just before Easter; rode with the third class and stayed up all night for two nights to go straight to Rome and arrived right before Easter. Arranged to stay in a Methodist upper-class boarding school in a residential district of Rome where widowed-Queen Margarita was and exactly opposite the Cappuccini monastery and gardens; stayed up to 6 weeks. One of the teachers was the granddaughter of Giuseppe; I was at Saint Peter's on Easter Sunday, I went up to the church and watched the people in the church; went to see all the palaces and art galleries during the intensive study of Rome. In June, we went to Switzerland with a sister as pedestrians, stayed there for a week; went into the mountain there and was able to look out; hearing sheep bells of coming over the hill and troops; On the way home, came back to Switzerland from Geneva where we saw great things. Then went to Holland because my sister wanted to see the original Harlem. Then we came back home in August and saw all the friends dressed alike as floral prints were in and went back to boarding school for another year.

-10min-20min: My sister no longer needed to go through the agony of teaching me Geography anymore, but was able to see the great sites in Paris and the cathedral. I took four courses in boarding school and was behind a year, but thought the year in Europe was better than a whole college course as I had a better insight of how men reacted to women and constantly compared our men favorably to women in Europe. When we actually scratched the surface of women the position of women where we inherited from the European legal system; all is just a foundation of interpretation and an expansion of English legal system and felt ahead of many women in many times in her years of college, was not interested in women until after graduation of 1906, same year Susan B Anthony died; never met her and didn't know anything about her. In college, they didn't have any majors, only electives; I came in and took sophomore French after the trip to Paris and studying French thoroughly and fundamentally with the Huguenots. There were a lot of hard-work in Paris compared to here. There were successful, distinguished artists and in the garden where we had tea every afternoon, was a kiosk newsstand and around the corner was the Rothschild’s stable; beautiful neighborhood. My husband in WWI went in with the French and in the Philippines, he put up the first American field hospital before we went into the wars. In 1907, we stayed a couple weeks in Paris and saw old teachers; they didn't think I would've come back. I went to great lengths to go out to the suburbs to find her and felt the teacher enhanced my experience. I lived on the coast of Brittany with a French household after marriage and had to speak French. There was a temporary depression and father wanted me to take care of myself and the children. Father had to live on spare things during his time in the war, recorded everything in a diary. I was conscious in 1907-1908 of the women in Paris and Rome, women of blonde hair, as I was; couldn't go out alone, they didn't have the freedom to go out alone until 1908 it greatly developed than it was in 1900. At Paris, in 1926, at the International Congress of Women after 1908, my sister entered me in; my sister was already a suffragist as I was not, only a feminist; didn't know what it really was until someone opens it up to you. Because of your sex, anything that is normally human, an adult, educated, a citizen who is competent to do something and interested in doing something in any field, solely because of sex, not because of incompetence then the status is inferior. This was the finest statement from just outside of Washington, a scientist, head of the government for the mentally ill. This was just before the mental wrecks of our wars. And he spoke one Sunday afternoon at our National Orange Party Head Quarters on Capitol Hill on the question of equal rights. He spoke for it, scientifically speaking, no individual is like no other individual and each individual has taste and talents and abilities which should have the expression for expansion.

-20min-30min: (Cont.) You are depriving every individual of expansion; everyone has individual matches. In 1904, there were twins in my class, the mother sent them to different schools because she did not want them to be more identical than they already were; One was healthier than the other. Sex disqualification and sex discrimination, that the individual cant go to the capacity of expansion and of talent so the society loses. The great scientist came over with the late widow of Mrs. Harvey of the Food Bank in the late 20’s. April of 1963, I knew Mrs. Harvey when I was teaching at Central High School and she was working in the Library of Congress before she married Dr. Harvey where I knew him from the French Club. In Winter of 1907-1908, in Rome, I was with my mother and sister. My sister was teaching in a Methodist school opposite of Capuccini Church and emancipated in her head; she was much beloved by all the children and a loving person who graduated in 1895. She entered me in as an auditor in the First National Congress of Italian Women held Rome and then in the unfinished palace of justice. It was a great landmark in my life, I never heard of a lot of things that were discussed, but was with educated people and I was being educated. They had the guest of honor to celebrate in all fields where women had entered at that time, all kinds of reforms; French women, English women, and British women came down. Also, Montessori came down and who evolved the Montessori system which was then practiced in a palace in Rome. Then I became completely sold on the contribution of Montessori; I never even went to kindergarten. I then became educated in the method. In all these fields, you have to add; I was born in a family where work was already on the way all over Europe, for the emancipation of women. Illiterate men voted in Europe than women and radical young men, whom I became well-acquainted with, where I was the auditor for the great criminologist of Enrico Ferri. This young man was against women suffrage, as women were very much backward. He thought he was a radical young man from Italian, and I never saw him since. One thing that was fixed was a sign in Latin was the status of women. I heard discussions of women were able to vote. The status of Inter-American Status of Women, where I collaborated with in the reports. It spoke of women all over Europe and even for women who want to give up a baby without any repercussions and the baby was given to a family to be taken care of. There was a terrific taxing of people and surrounding areas for aristocracy and power and the state church, which was expensive to maintain. The poor were struggling to pay, along with women too. I didn't know much of Italian law at that time.

-30min-40min: I have lived in the nurse’s settlement in New York, where Lillian D. Wald with three other women were founders with her, because of the education in economics and charities and corrections. Professor Hubert Mills was a great professor there where I wrote back to him. The Trustees did not allow any lecturing or discussions or mentions of the suffrage. The history professor and a doctor, she was a strong suffragist but was not able to talk to us about it. These famous people of the movement from 1912 til now, these movements were all represented to the National Congress of Italian Women were all educated to raise the status of women in each of all the countries. It was a great thing and a landmark for all women. For instance, the nurses were telling how the hospitals were organized. So I went through the whole mill of public and private charities in Rome in 1908 and where I studied under a great socialist deputy and finally some legal activity when Mussolini came to power by the appointment of a senator. The continuity, if it was worth doing then stick it through until the end and that’s the trouble we have now. We were able to vote here for 43 years, almost, and most women educated or not were insufficiently educated in regards to the law and constituted law when we were able to vote. In 1922-1923, to oppose the equal rights amendment, they wanted to know what the girls wanted now, due to the lack of understanding of our own government. At Yale, I did not have any of the books regarding the status of women and we hadn't taken any of the prohibitions in either. The definition of citizenship was when the granted of citizenship for the negro was written for them by the adoption of the 13th Amendment to define the status of these creatures as the government did not know what they were in our society. Men stated that Negros and whites will be citizens and all males in states were allowed to vote and may not deny a citizen of any of the amendments. Those states that deny a male citizen the right to vote, shall have his representation in Congress. So then, the court had to do a representation of the 14th amendment for those were males and those who were not, as they did not cover themselves closely by not including women. Women should have equal rights; the Blanket Clause.

-40min-50min: Many didn't know what could happen by the Blanket Clause. In the first three years, we tried to appeal, amend and change for equality for about forty bills in different states, I went down to Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi and there were already 12 changes in Louisiana in the first year; 1 person can always turn the tie. The President of Federation of Women’s Club, wife of the attorney general of Louisiana came to this movement and backed it. The National Secretary of the women’s party and I was the National Chairman after the vote in the next election, after Alice Paul. Miss Politan and I went to those three states and I had a position to go through the campaign to end the suffrage. In those states, they became a part of the equal rights amendment towards the end. When I had been teaching in Central High School, the French I studied so hard and practiced, the boys and girls I had taught; we spoke about many things. I asked them one day, what does it say in your history books about women, there was one reference about women suffrage; there was a mention of Martha Washington who owned property, these things were all fragmentary. Everything that I had studied grew into the defects of the law. Women’s definition in law of necessity was in the footnote of the history book. Now, I look at textbooks in the index’ of a professor at Smith College and the women suffrage movement was so strong in 1920. During my hunger strike and in the Washington jail, under the President Woodrow Wilson, towards the end of his time after the peace conference, I was placed in jail in 1919 with the rest of the suffragists; we got it through in the same year. Wilson had three campaigns against him where women had already secured the vote, which ended the suffrage campaign as it became a practical tool and a weapon; Alice Paul was able to lead a small group of Congressional Union who were responsible for the fate of the Susan B. Anthony Suffrage Amendment which is now valid since August 26, 1920, and Connecticut was the last state to ratify that before we voted. This was done by the dominant Republican machine, Mr. J. Henry Roraback where women had to do all the war work they possibly could and they would receive the backing of the women’s amendment. Some of the Republicans did not back it up and owe it to us as women are outnumbering men in all states as there are more women than men.

-50min-61:48min: Women have inherited biological strength which we are not responsible for, but without us, there would be no race at all. You had to be strong and the man was not needed at all times at all places and he could be a lazy hunger and broker and lazy lawyer or minister; the whole organization is being done by women at Yale. At last, women are now allowed to go to the Yale law school. At the time of superficial depression in Washington, I took the examination to teach French in Central High School, the result to get the appointment came in a curious way and the consequences in 1911, the daughter of another congressman, I became acquainted with her as she was already teaching there; she asked why I didn't come teach French earlier, as she was resigning. She was President of the College Equal Suffrage League of the District of Columbia and I had no part in it but knew it existed. When she resigned, she suggested that I was to be a part club and she paid $.50 for my expenses to be president and my sister was already in it; I did not want any part in it but tried to enjoy it. Joy Webster, the treasurer, graduate of the University of Nebraska; I hatched the idea I did not see anything of women’s suffrage in connection inaugural of profession. The First National Procession in New York, where I marched where there were older women with full of intelligence and devotion, but was not able to be in the parade at their age. In the Spring, to invite the National Suffrage Organization to have a suffrage parade at the time of any man being elected is to be inaugurated. A young woman named Alice Paul, who had been studying in London and Bermingham and received her degree at the University of Pennsylvania; was going to that with a vast of June graduates when I entered in 1902. Where they offered their services to the congressional work of National America and the National Suffrage Amendment, instead of working state by state. Alice arrived in Washington, in Autumn, December falling, where she had been appointed to work for the organization. She asked me if there was anybody who gives a contribution to the parade? Only myself and another lady in a studio; I called her and said they were organizing money for the parade and I got it right away. That was the sudden switch to the suffrage, this younger woman, younger than I, had the determination to her life’s work. My life has not been my own since then; the last October til now, I would like to tie this right now, this young woman, we were both young and presentable, educated and privileged, she had made it so reasonable, that even doctors, nurses, and lawyers were able to picket the law and were arrested and sent to jail. Never backing, always inching forward for seven years from March 3rd to Fort Myers; these women had died and lost money through depression and war since 1913.


College, Danbury State. “Elsie Hill Interview.” Herb Janick Papers, MS012. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019. Accessed on the Web: 19 Oct. 2019.



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