Maud Howe Elliott (1854-1948) was a social and political activist, Pulitzer prize-winning author, and founder of the Newport Art Association. She was the daughter of social activists Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Gridley Howe. Her mother advocated for abolitionism and women’s suffrage and was known for writing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic”; her father founded Perkins School for the Blind. Though formally educated at private institutions in Boston, Elliott spent a significant portion of her childhood at Perkins. In the summer the Howe family traveled to their summer home Oak Glen in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Oak Glen was left to Elliott after her parents’ passing, and she later used it as a hub for her own social and political ventures. Maud shared many of her parents political and social views. Their activism was instrumental in shaping Elliott's life as she went on to influence society and politics in Rhode Island and America at-large. Elliott married artist John Elliott in 1887, who she met while traveling in Italy in the late 1870s. The two lived in Europe and Chicago before settling in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Elliott’s social and political activism included involvement in the founding of the Newport County Suffrage League and the formation and development of the Rhode Island Progressive Party as well as involvement in the Progressive Party on a national level.
The women's suffrage movement in Rhode Island dates back to 1868, and has taken form in many leagues, parties and organizations. For over forty years both the national and state parties fought for women's right to vote until the 19th amendment was legalized in 1920. Maud Howe Elliott gave support to the Rhode Island branch of the movement, and formed the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Newport County. Locally she campaigned for Rhode Island legislation to legalize women's right to vote, and helped to manage membership, accounting, and selection of key personnel in the association itself. She also traveled around the country, participating in lecture circuits to help build interest in fledgling suffragist societies.
Elliott was also involved in the formation and development of the Rhode Island Progressive Party. After Theodore Roosevelt lost the Republican nomination in 1912, he founded the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. It came to prominence from 1912 through 1916, establishing a platform that stood for tighter federal regulations on industry and programs to benefit the poor and working class of the United States. Additionally, the Progressive Party supported enfranchising women, which encouraged many suffragists to join the party. Elliott’s position in Newport gave her opportunity to form relations with influential figures to rally support for the Bull Moose Party. Again, she went on lecture circuits, organized fundraisers, and as evident from her correspondence was responsible for the recruitment of political candidates that would go on to represent the party on a national level.
Scope and Content
This collection largely contains correspondence regarding Maud Howe Elliott's involvement in the women's suffrage movement and the Progressive Party both in Rhode Island and on a national level. There are also records of meeting minutes, billing statements, membership lists, and flyers pertaining to the same topics. The bulk of papers span over a period of about five years from 1911 through 1916. In the letters there is evidence of Elliott's involvement in politics, her efforts to organize fundraisers, hiring suggestions, and propositions for her to deliver speeches across the country to help build interest in these causes. Correspondence and billing statements indicate she was responsible for the logistical aspect of these endeavors while the meeting minutes, flyers, pamphlets, and membership lists provide evidence of her successful involvement. In particular, many letters request Elliott to travel to the southern parts of the country where there was critical need to establish and grow support for both suffragist and Progressive causes.