Florence Brooks Whitehouse was a Maine suffrage leader from 1914 – 1920. Her support of “radical” tactics, such as picketing President Wilson, earned condemnation from her more conservative suffrage peers in Maine. As a result, she was left out of suffrage histories, although the record plainly shows that she did more than almost anyone in the closing years of the campaign to bring woman suffrage to the state. Through a statewide suffrage referendum, WWI, the 1918 influenza pandemic, and the political machinations of men of both major political parties, Florence and her peers fought for women’s right to vote and to have equality of opportunity with men. This is a story that has really never been told in Maine.
Anne Gass, our August speaker and great-grand-daughter of Whitehouse, has written Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Woman Suffrage, which is a lively account of Florence’s suffrage activities during the critical final years of the campaign. Due to the wealth of correspondence, interviews, and other historical documents Gass found in her research, Florence is often able to speak for herself in the pages. William Barry, who reviewed the book for the Portland Press Herald, wrote “The author, Whitehouse’s great-grand-daughter, is never sentimental, for this is a true work of scholarship. Gass depicts not only the work of one Maine suffragist, but also the clash between the Maine Woman Suffrage Association, founded in 1874, and the radical National Woman’s Party of 1916.”
The Kennebec Historical Society August Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, August 17, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. at the Augusta City Center, located at 16 Cony Street in Augusta.