Agnes Wright Spring (1894-1988), a protégé of University of Wyoming professor and librarian Dr. Grace Raymond, published a wonderful set of anecdotes in 1981 titled Near the Greats. Through her years as a prominent historian in both Wyoming and Colorado, Agnes kept notes on “interviews, incidents, wisps of gossip or hearsay and pertinent facts about the persons with whom I crossed trails or in whose shadows I walked.”
One of those greats was Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), a national leader in the woman suffrage movement. Catt campaigned for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920. She served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was the founder of the League of Women Voters and the International Alliance of Women.
Below is an excerpt from Spring’s recollections of Catt:
Carrie Chapman Catt was a classmate of Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard at the University of Iowa in the early 1880s and was a close friend.
At the time of Mrs. Catt’s first visit to Laramie, about 1912, I was assistant to librarian Hebard, who asked me to meet Mrs. Catt at the train and escort her to Dr. Hebard’s home, the Doctor’s Inn. I met the train with Mr. Howard’s team and hack and found Mrs. Catt very cordial. She was a striking looking woman, beautifully dressed.
In the autumn of 1916 when I went to Columbia University I met Mrs. Catt’s niece, Ruhe Lynn of Walsenberg, Colorado. She was living in Whittier Hall where I resided. We became good friends.
In December, Mrs. Walter McNabb Miller, an official of the New York equal suffrage movement and a close friend of Mrs. Catt, employed Ruhe and me to do some vacation work. We were to canvass big apartment houses to try to obtain names of women who wanted to vote. New York then did not have equal rights.
We were paid by the hour. We would go to a big apartment house and select a buzzer on a top floor. If the owner buzzed the door so we could get in we would then work our way up through the apartment house.
Some doors would be slammed in our faces at the words “Equal Rights.”
When we asked one woman if she would like to vote, she stomped her foot and said, “I hope you never get the vote!” We smiled and said, “We have the vote. We are from Colorado and Wyoming.”
We had such difficulty in getting doors opened if we mentioned we were from the Equal Suffrage Association that we changed our tactics and said we were “two young women from Columbia University.”
Those were the magic words and doors opened.
We did succeed in getting a large number of names on our petition. And we hoped we had helped “the cause.”
In June 1921, I was happy to renew my friendship with Mrs. Catt when the University of Wyoming gave her an honorary degree. I think this one was the first one granted by the University. Dr. Hebard entertained her at a tea in her garden for Mrs. Catt.
The Grace Raymond Hebard papers and Agnes Wright Spring papers contain fascinating materials about Carrie Chapman Catt, the woman suffrage movement, and Hebard’s and Spring’s participation in that movement.