Rebecca Osler, a professor of economics and sociology at Elmira College, was active in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1915, as chairman of the Civic Study Committee for the Women’s League for Good Government, she began speaking out for women’s suffrage. She gave lectures at local clubs and spoke at suffragist rallies. In 1915, she and a dozen Elmira College students volunteered at the polls, urging men to vote for the suffrage amendment. Osler continued speaking out for voting rights after the 1915 amendment’s failure. On November 21, 1917, she served as toastmistress at the reception held in Elmira to celebrate the passage of women’s suffrage in New York State.
Elmira College was established in 1855 as the first college to award degrees to women that were comparable to those granted to men. While it does not appear that the college ever took an official side in the women’s suffrage debate, students and staff aligned with both sides. The college hosted both pro- and anti-suffrage speakers. Individual students were involved in the movement, attending meetings and lectures. A large party of students marched in the November 3, 1917 suffragist parade in Elmira. In a straw vote held three days later at the college, 99 students voted for women’s suffrage and 40 against.
Revs. Samuel and Annis Eastman
Dr. Vida F. Moore
Dr. Vida F. Moore was vice-chair of the Elmira Equal Suffrage League during the 1915 campaign. A professor of philosophy and pedagogy, she had degrees from Wesleyan College and Cornell University and had taught at Emma Willard College and Mount Holyoke College before coming to Elmira College in 1901. She was active in a number of local women’s clubs including the Wednesday Morning Club, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the College Women’s Club, and the Women’s League for Good Government. After contracting pneumonia following a suffrage rally, she died shortly before the vote in 1915.
Elmira College faculty, ca. 1915
Elmira College Faculty, ca. 1915
“Women do not want to urge, coax, wheedle or influence men to vote against their own inclination. They want them to be true to their convictions, but they want the right to do the same themselves. It is not very flattering to women to be classed with imbeciles, insane, criminals and idiots.”
-Rebecca T. Osler, lecture at Companion Study Club meeting, Elmira Heights, October 22, 1915