Ida Husted Harper

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Ida Husted Harper
Ida Husted Harper photograph by Aime Dupont.jpg
Born February 18, 1851
Franklin County, Indiana
Died March 14, 1931(1931-03-14) (aged 80)
Occupation Teacher, journalist, suffragist

Ida Husted Harper (February 18, 1851 – March 14, 1931) was a prominent figure in the United States women's suffrage movement. She was an American author and journalist who wrote primarily to document the movement and show support of its ideals.


Ida Husted Harper was born in Fairfield, Franklin County, Indiana to John Arthur Husted and Cassandra Stoddard. When she was 10 years old, her family moved to Muncie, Indiana in search for better school systems. Harper graduated from high school in 1868 when she was only a sophomore. After her graduation, she entered Indiana University. It did not take long until she withdrew from the university and became a teacher at a school in Peru, Indiana. After working at the school for over a year, she progressed and became the principal of the high school (Opdycke). On December 28, 1871, she married Thomas Winans Harper of Terre Haute, Indiana, who went on to become a successful attorney and politician. The couple had a daughter named Winifred. The couple soon divorced.[1]

One of the first columns Harper started working for the women’s column called Terre Haute Saturday Evening Mail. She also began writing in many Indianapolis newspapers under a male pseudonym. She devoted a great amount of her time to the BLF publication Locomotive Fireman’s Magazine. Working for this publication led her to become the editor of the “Women’s Department” in 1884. During this time, Harper found herself becoming more attracted to campaigns for women's suffrage.[2] In 1887, she helped to organize a woman suffrage society in Indiana, serving as its secretary and in 1896 joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association where she worked as a reporter and, ultimately, an historian of the movement. After the separation of Ida and her husband, Harper instantaneously accepted the position as editor in chief of the Terre Haute Daily News. She did not stay long at this position because she believed that if they moved, her daughter Winifred could obtain better education. Harper resigned from her position at Terre Haute Daily News for the sake of her daughter.[3]

Both Harper and her daughter entered Stanford University in California; unlike her daughter she never received a degree. Harper then contributed her time to the women’s suffrage movement (Opdycke). She brought Susan B. Anthony to Terre Haute for a suffrage convention and became close to her during this period, soon collaborating with her on writing the "History of Woman Suffrage." Harper was chosen by Anthony to be the head of the NAWSA, which entailed organizing the press relations for the association. Later, their relationship prospered. Harper started helping Anthony with her writing. Anthony said, “the moment I give an idea—the point—she formulates it into a good sentence—while I should have to haggle over it half an hour.” Harper dedicated two years condensing the rough notes Anthony had written. This ultimately resulted in the writings of the memoirs of Susan B. Anthony’s life. Seeking to cement her place in history as Anthony's sole biographer, she spent weeks burning priceless letters and historic documents after Harper set her main biographical text in place. After this time, Harper was chair of the council’s press committee from 1899-1902 where she wrote articles for the International Suffrage News. She also was an active editor of a woman’s column in the New York Sunday Sun from 1899-1903. Harper later wrote an authorized and substantial biography of Anthony based on their relationship and Anthony's own archives. The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony was published in 3 volumes between 1898 and 1908.[4]

Harper fulfilled a similar role in press relations for the International Council of Women and later headed the Leslie Bureau of Suffrage Education, which strove to improve public understanding of the movement. The bureau produced articles and pamphlets about the campaign and also communicated directly with editors, praising, chastising, or correcting them regarding their editorial perspectives and policies on women. During the time of increasing concern due to influence of immigrants in the electorate, Harper thought that women’s suffrage could help compensate for the corporation of voters in the country. To achieve this, she used a federal state approach that contributed to her inner drive. In 1918, Harper discouraged a large group of black women from joining NAWSA. She believed that their participation would turn southern congressmen against the drive for suffrage rather than help with the situation. In contrast, Harper encouraged the movement to exceed further than the middle-class base to workingwomen.[5] The bureau also coordinated national publicity in the final push for constitutional amendment. In 1920, her efforts contributed to the success of the movement as women were guaranteed the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1922, she updated the History of Woman Suffrage, adding fifth and sixth volumes. Harper died in Washington, D.C. in 1931. To this day, she is known for “having a great part in great work.”

Selected works[edit]

  • The Associated Work of the Women of Indiana. 1893
  • The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony; Including Public Addresses, Her Own Letters and Many from Her Contemporaries During Fifty Years. 1898
  • Suffrage-a right. 1906
  • Woman Suffrage Throughout the World. 1907
  • History of the Movement for Woman Suffrage in the United States. 1907
  • How Six States Won Woman Suffrage. 1912
  • Suffrage Snapshots. 1915
  • A National Amendment for Woman Suffrage. 1915
  • Story of the National Amendment for Woman Suffrage. 1919

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Opdycke, Sandra. "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
  2. ^ Opdycke, Sandra. "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
  3. ^ Opdycke, Sandra. "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
  4. ^ Opdycke, Sandra. "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.
  5. ^ Opdycke, Sandra. "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nancy Baker Jones, "A Forgotten Feminist: The Early Writings of Ida Husted Harper, 1878-1894," Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 73, no. 2 (June 1977), pp. 79-101. In JSTOR
  • Clifton J. Philips, "Ida A.. Husted," Notable American Women: Volume 2. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1975.
  • Sandra Opdycke "Ida Husted Harper." American National Biography. Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2014.

External links[edit]