Ida Husted Harper

Journalist, Press Expert for the Suffrage Movement

Ida Husted Harper, 1900s
Ida Husted Harper, 1900s. FPG / Getty Images

Ida Husted Harper Facts

Known for: suffrage activism, especially writing articles, pamphlets and books; official biographer of Susan B. Anthony and author of the last two of six volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage

Occupation: journalist, writer
Dates: February 18, 1851 – March 14, 1931
Also Known As: Ida Husted

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Cassandra Stoddard Husted
  • Father: John Arthur Husted, saddler

    Education:

    • Public schools in Indiana
    • One year at Indiana University
    • Stanford University, did not graduate

    Marriage, Children:

    • Husband: Thomas Winans Harper (married December 28, 1871, divorced February 10, 1890; attorney)
    • Child: Winnifred Harper Cooley, became a journalist

    Ida Husted Harper Biography:

    Ida Husted was born in Fairfield, Indiana. The family moved to Muncie for the better schools there, when Ida was 10. She attended public schools through high school.  In 1868, she entered Indiana University with the standing of a sophomore, leaving after just a year for a job as a high school principal in Peru, Indiana.

    She was married in December, 1871, to Thomas Winans Harper, a Civil War veteran and attorney.  They moved to Terre Haute. For many years, he was chief counsel for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, the union headed by Eugene V. Debs. Harper and Debs were close colleagues and friends.

    Writing Career

    Ida Husted Harper began writing secretly for Terre Haute newspapers, sending her articles in under a male pseudonym at first.  Eventually, she came to publish them under her own name, and for twelve years had a column in the Terre Haute Saturday Evening Mail called “A Woman’s Opinion.” She was paid for her writing; her husband disapproved.

    She also wrote for the newspaper of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF), and from 1884 to 1893 was editor of that paper’s Woman’s Department.

    In 1887, Ida Husted Harper became the secretary of the Indiana woman suffrage society.  In this work, she organized conventions in every Congressional district in the state.

    On Her Own

    In February, 1890, she divorced her husband, then became editor in chief of the Terre Haute Daily News.  She left just three months later, after leading the paper successfully through an election campaign.  She moved to Indianapolis to be with her daughter Winnifred, who was a student in that city at the Girls’ Classical School.  She continued contributing to the BLF magazine, and also began writing for the Indianapolis News.

    When Winnifred Harper moved to California in 1893 to begin studies at Stanford University, Ida Husted Harper accompanied her, and also enrolled in classes at Stanford.

    Woman Suffrage Writer

    In California, Susan B. Anthony put Ida Husted Harper in charge of press relations for the 1896 California woman suffrage campaign, under the auspices of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  She began helping Anthony write speeches and articles.

     

    After the defeat of the California suffrage effort, Anthony asked Harper to help her with her memoirs.  Harper moved to Rochester to Anthony’s home there, going through her many papers and other records. In 1898, Harper published two volumes of the Life of Susan B. Anthony. (A third volume was published in 1908, after Anthony’s death.)

    The following year Harper accompanied Anthony and others to London, as a delegate to the International Council of Women. She attended the Berlin meeting in 1904, and became a regular attender of those meetings and also of the International Suffrage Alliance.  She served as chair of the International Council of Women’s press committee from 1899 to 1902.

    From 1899 to 1903, Harper was editor of a woman’s column in the New York Sunday Sun.  She also worked on a followup to the three volume History of Woman Suffrage; with Susan B.

    Anthony, she published volume 4 in 1902.  Susan B. Anthony died in 1906; Harper published the third volume of Anthony’s biography in 1908.

     From 1909 to 1913 she edited a woman’s page in Harper’s Bazaar.  She chaired the National Press Bureau of the NAWSA in New York City, a job for which she placed articles in many newspapers and magazines. She toured as a lecturer and traveled to Washington to testify to Congress several times.  She also published many of her own articles for newspapers in major cities.

    The Final Suffrage Push

    In 1916, Ida Husted Harper became part of the final push for woman suffrage.  Miriam Leslie had left a bequest to NAWSA that established the Leslie Bureau of Suffrage Education.  Carrie Chapman Catt invited Harper to be in charge of that effort.  Harper moved to Washington for the job, and from 1916 to 1919, she wrote many articles and pamphlets advocating woman suffrage, and also wrote letters to many newspapers, in a campaign to influence public opinion in favor of a national suffrage amendment.

    In 1918, as she saw that victory was possibly near, she opposed the entrance of a large black women’s organization into the NAWSA, fearing that would lose the support of legislators in the southern states.

    That same year, she began preparing volumes 5 and 6 of the History of Woman Suffrage, covering 1900 to victory, which came in 1920.  The two volumes were published in 1922.

    Later Life

    She stayed on in Washington, residing at the American Association of University Women.  She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Washington in 1931, and her ashes were buried in Muncie.

    Ida Husted Harper’s life and work are documented in many books about the suffrage movement.

    Religion:  Unitarian