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Rachel Lawton: Suffragist

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

This History Note shares the story of one Longmeadow woman's role in the fight for women's right to vote.

Recent reminders that 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of women winning the right to vote are plentiful. Much is written of early pioneers of the movement Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Without question, their role in the long-fought movement is significant. But seldom told are the stories of the women who fought quietly for women’s voting rights in small towns like Longmeadow, MA. One such woman was Rachel Lawton (1885-1983) who lived at 100 Crescent Road.

Before suffrage, women were encouraged to use their domestic influence on whichever father, husband, brother, or brother-in-law they lived with as a way of expressing their social and political opinions. Rachel Lawton, an unmarried adult woman who lived with her parents, was active in the Springfield Equal Suffrage League, holding several executive board positions, and she was a leading member of a small group of women who made up the Longmeadow Equal Suffrage League who worked to spread the message of the movement to Longmeadow’s citizens. At her Crescent Road home, Rachel Lawton hosted many informational Suffrage Teas in hopes of sharing the movement’s mission and encouraging women to learn more about politics. Springfield newspapers would sometimes publicize the gatherings in advance, and then share reports that had been submitted to their social events column.

Springfield Republican- 1914

In 1914, Rachel and her mother Ruth were two of three women representing Longmeadow in Boston’s suffrage parade where 9000 women marched wearing broad yellow sashes and white hats with brims pinned up on one side with a yellow rose. In 1916, at the very first Eastern States Exposition, Rachel Lawton helped plan, organize and run the booth for the Springfield Equal Suffrage League. It was the commitment to the cause by private citizens like Rachel Lawton who helped to keep the issue in the public eye decades after the fight for equal suffrage had begun and despite countless state and federal defeats.

Contributed by Melissa M. Cybulski, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society

August 27, 2020

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