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Anita Pollitzer Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCL-MS-11632, 12238
"In reply to your letter I am writing to say that Miss Pollitzer was an organizer for the Woman's Party for a number of years and was one of the most successful organizers that we ever had. She has a great deal of initiative, enthusiasm, and personal charm. She was particularly good in press work, interviewing, money raising and speaking. She has a sunny disposition and is easy to work with. She makes friends easily and does not antagonize. She is never-tiring in her work, full of energy, and very painstaking. She has unusual courage, independence of thought, and intelligence. She is very loyal to those she works for and with. She has a high sense of honor."

Thus did veteran suffragist and National Woman's Party (NWP) founder Alice Paul characterize Charleston native Anita Pollitzer (1894-1975) in a letter of reference to Miss Jean Earle Mochle in 22 August 1929 regarding Pollitzer's qualifications as a contact liaison for a student traveling company called "The Open Road." Paul's assertions buttressed those of South Carolina governor Thomas G. McLeod three years earlier. In a letter of introduction to the International Women's Suffrage Alliance dated 16 April 1926, he expressed his confidence in Pollitzer's role as a U.S. delegate-"I an very much pleased, indeed, that our Senate is honored by Miss Pollitzer's being chosen as this delegate. It gives me pleasure to state that Miss Pollitzer is an unusually intelligent and interesting young woman, prominently connected in her native city and State. She has been active in educational and cultural work, and her labors are very much appreciated by our people here in South Carolina."

This collection of three and three-quarters linear feet of papers documents the life and work of Anita Pollitzer, who became involved in the Suffrage movement and the National Women's Party during her college years at Columbia University (1913-1916) and who continued her efforts on behalf of equal rights for women with the NWP in Washington, D.C., and nationwide in the decades that followed. The central component of the collection, in fact, consists of correspondence, writings, documents, and photographs dating from 1916 ro 1975 representing Pollitzer's involvement in this movement and especially with the NWP, which she served as national secretary (1921-1926), vice chairman (1927-1938), chairman (1945-1949), and honorary chairman (1949-1975).

The bulk of the material consists of Pollitzer's own letters and notes, as well as the correspondence of other party members. Her "never-tiring" efforts to encourage passage of the Equal Rights Amendment put her in touch with senators, congressmen, priests, rabbis, and celebrities over the years, including those who supported the amendment, both openly as well as clandestinely, and some who strongly opposed it. Pollitzer also corresponded with women around the country-from housewives to the President's wife-soliciting support for the Party and ERA. In a letter to her of 17 September 1934 Amelia Earhart makes this offer-"If there is any was I can make a small noise for the cause, of course, I shall be glad to do so." Eleanor Roosevelt agreed in a 20 January 1944 letter to meet with Pollitzer and a group of pro-ERA women industrial workers, but asked to "have present some of the industrial workers who [were] opposed" to the amendment. The very stationery upon which much of the Party correspondence was written includes the names of such notable women as screen stars Mary Pickford and Katherine Hepburn, as well as that of renowned artist and Pollitzer's personal friend Georgia O'Keeffe, all of whom are listed as NWP National Advisory Board members in the 1940s.

Particularly interesting is a letter of 27 November 1916 from photogrpher Alfred Stieglitz, hand copied by Pollitzer's sister Mabel. Anita Pollitzer had studied art under Stieglitz and had frequented his studio gallery "291" while a student at Columbia University, where she met and befriended Georgia O'Keeffe. in the years that followed, O'Keeffe and Pollitzer often exchanged watercolors and charcoal sketches with their letters, which have been complied and edited by Clive Giboire in Lovingly, Georgia: The Complete Correspondence of Georgia O'Keeffe & Anita Pollitzer (Simon & Schuster, 1990). On a rainy New Year's Day in 1916, Pollitzer brought several of O'Keeffe's charcoal drawings to Stieglitz's office, without O'Keeffe's permission, but confessing in a letter to her later that day-"I had to do, I'm glad I did it, it was the only thing to do-"(p.115). Thus while Stieglitz may be credited with bringing O'Keeffe's are to the public, it is Pollitzer who must be credited for bringing O'Keeffe to Stieglitz (she later became his wife). Although O'Keeffe became one of the premier artists of her day and Anita found her niche in the National Woman's Party, the letter from Steiglitz which Mabel Pollitzer copied highlights Anita's talents as well. He wrote-"To Anita Pollitzer-There are not many real two-ninety ones-at least not many that I am conscious of, and what I'm not conscious of means little to me-To one of the feal real two-ninety ones-a creative forces in '291.'"

Pollitzer aslo kept copies of official Party records of senators' and congressmens' statements and votes, as well as extensive notes of her own, to which she often referred in her correspondence and statements. On several occasions over the years, Pollitzer and Senator Strom Thurmond exchanged letters. In reply to Pollitzer's letter of 6 February 1948 asking for his position regarding ERA, then Governor Thurmond promptly answered on 11 February-"It is indeed anachronistic that women do no not enjoy the same legal rights as men. It is high time that the situation be rectified. Women, who have served side by side with men in peace and war, should not be penalized because of their sex. I heartily endorse the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Other Party correspondence retained by Pollitzer includes letters and statements from senators who later became U.S. Presidents. In a copy of a letter to NWP National Vice Chairman Emma Guffey Miller on 7 October 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy declared his position regarding ERA-"The platform has my full support...You have my assurances that I will interpret the Democratic platform, as I know it is intended, to bering about, through concrete actions including the adoption of the Equal Rights for Women Amendment, the full equality for women which advocates of the equal rights amendment have always sought." Twelve days later, on 19 October 1960, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson wrote to Ms. Miller-"Many thanks for your letter regarding S.J. Res. 69, Equal Rights for Men and Women Amendment. As I am sure you know, I have consistently supported this resolution, and I intend to continue with this support."

The intra-party dynamics revealed in the correspondence also prove particularly interesting. In 1946, a rift in the National Woman's Party led to a schism which resulted in a lawsuit against Pollitzer and several founding members of the Party. Pollitzer's correspondence documents the ulginess of the situation that the press clippings appeared to gloss over. An insurgent group of women, reportedly led by longtime NWP National Treasurer Laura Berrien and National Council member and New York Branch Vice Chairman Doris Stevens, with Party member Sara Whitehurst as the titular "chairman," attempted to take over the Party, insisting that Pollitzer's group spent too much time on international rights for women, to the detriment of the fight in the United States. Indeed, Pollitzer had actively participated in the World Woman's Party and the International Council of Women, both of which required her attendance at international conferences for the passage of the Equal Nationality Treaty in 1926 and the inclusion of women's rights in the United Nations charter in 1945. Thus, the insurgents believed they had a legitimate grievance.

The "insurgents," a group of about sixty women located primarily in the East, held their own Party elections and attempted to take over the headquarters in Washington, D.C., in January 1947. The Washington, D.C., Times reported-"Some say a woman who boasted she was 70 and announced she is a Maine State Senator whacked the detective with her cane, while her companions pushed their way into the mansion and announced they were taking it over." Although the press may have found the situation humorous, some of Pollitzer's officeholders felt that, to eliminate further controversy, they should step down. Other Party members were shocked, and threatened to leave the Party altogether if the insurgents were allowed to take control. Western Regional Chairman Mary Sinclair Crawford wrote to Pollitzer on 27 January 1947-"Because you are our legally elected president, and have given such splendid leadership to the cause of equal rights-the cause for which you were elected, I shall stand with you in whatever decision you decide to make. The opposition group is entirely wrong, and may I again insist, they have never given us distant members any reason for their actions...If you decide to allow them to direct the work for the amendment, will you please present my resignation? I could not possibly allow my name to be associated with women of such unscrupulous action."

Pollitzer's group allowed the lawsuit to continue and successfully survived the crisis. But as late as 1949, negative letters continued to surface about Pollitzer. Party member Olive Beale wrote to National Executive Council member and past Vice Chairman Jane Norman Smith in January 1949 that Pollitzer's "cold, hard, purposeful manner in rebuffing Miss Paul, in brushing and forcing her aside in order to make herself supreme, is even more appalling to me than Griswold's (Pollitzer's secretary) violence. Together they make a satanic team." In another letter to then-current Executive Council Vice Chairman Clara Snell Wolfe, written perhaps that same day, Beale wrote-"There is no need to acknowledge this letter-but do please destroy it, or better yet, return it to me. There must be no copies about. I trust you all."

In a letter from her future husband dated 9 August 1925, Elie C. Edson predicted-"It will be interesting to see-if we live-what will have happened to both yourself and myself, and our development in that time. Together, we ought to make an interesting life of it." Pollitzer did, in fact, "make an interesting life of it." An obituary from the New York Times dated 5 July 1975 credited Pollitzer as "a pioneer fighter for equal rights for women," stating-"Over the years she had spoken in nearly every state and in Britain to plead for equal treatment for women." The Charleston Evening Post of 7 July 1975 lauded Pollitzer's role in the Suffrage movement-"In the drive for ratification, she worked in at least two thirds of the states, and secured the last-needed vote in the 36th state, Tennessee." Two days later, on 9 July 1975, the Evening Post went on to describe Pollitzer as a "woman of intellectual power and boundless energy," one who had "acquired a national reputation in the women's movement to which she dedicated her life. Her death at age 80 in New York City, where she had resided for many years, has closed a noteworthy career."

A final segment of material in the collection consists of two folders of research and writings compiled by historian Constance Ashton Myers between 1975 and 1990. Myers had met and interviewed Pollitzer's sister Mabel in the 1970s, shortly after Anita Pollitzer's death. Ms. Pollitzer allowed Myers access to this particular cache of material and suggested in a letter dated 24 July 1975-"We must, I feel, be generous in our giving to So[uth] Car[oliniana] Library." Myers' material provides significant historical insights into the National Woman's Party and its attempts to secure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The collection includes also a typescript draft of Anita Pollitzer's informal biography of American artist Georgia O'Keeffe, originally entitled "Georgia O'Keeffe: An Unauthorized Biography" [see Jan Garden Castro, The Art & Life of Georgia O'Keeffe, Crown, 1985], the publishing of which O'Keeffe first supported and then prohibited, together with a letter from William S. Pollitzer, 14 October 1991, suggesting that the biography is "especially valuable as it contains the changes suggested by O'Keeffe written in pencil." The biography was published by Simon & Schuster in 1988 as A Woman on Paper: Georgia O'Keefe.

Dates

  • 1880-1975

Physical Description

Box 1-Biographical. Including various accounts of Anita Pollitzer's life and positions within the National Woman's Party, a biographical sketch from Who's Who of American Women, newspaper clippings announcing her marriage to Elie Edson, information on talks given by Pollitzer, obituary notices, and limited information on her husband.

Box 1-Correspondence, 1880-1973, undated. Consists of chronologically arranged family, personal, and business correspondence. The majoirty of letters reflect Pollitzer's involvement with the women's movement, particularly with the National Woman's Party. Several personal letters focus on both the financial struggle for Elie Edson and Anita Pollitzer as well as Elie's difficulty in securing steady employment. In the numerous correspondence with political figures urging action to be taken to ensure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment there are letters from many senators, governors, and members of Congress, including three men who would eventually become presidents-John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. Correspondence with various women's organizations that supported the ERA are also included in this series. Among these groups are the General Federation of Women's Clubs, American Medical Women's Association, Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Industrial Women's League for Equality, and Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic. The correspondence among members of the National Women's Party addresses such topics as the lawsuit brought by a splinter group against the party, the dire financial situation of the party, controversy over attempts to form a contract with a fund raising agency, and various intrigues concerning chairmen elections. Among the more prominent correspondents are Alice Paul, Burnita Shelton, Ethel Ernest Murrell, and Mrs. Richard Anderson.

Box 1-Writings, 1935-1962, undated. Including published works such as "Is the Law Unfair to Women?" an article appearing in the August 1943 issue of Woman's Day and the manuscript for A Woman on Paper: Georgia O'Keeffe, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1988. Additional files cover unpublished works as well as related drafts and notes, most of which deal with the issue of women's rights.

Box 1-Speeches, 1935-1962, undated. Including addresses given at meetings of women's organizations, at National Woman's Party conventions, and to government committees. The focus of these speeches is the need for equality of rights as well as the role of the National Woman's Party in attempting to secure these rights.

Boxes 1-3-Topical Files. Materials relating to Pollitzer's involvement in the National Women's Party and her interest in women's rights. Other related subseries include: World Woman's Party, United Nations, International and National Conferences on Women, and the Equal Rights Amendment. The topical file pertaining to the National Woman's Party includes information on the history, members, national conventions, and lawsuit as well as party publications, resolutions, press releases, minutes of meetings, and financial reports. The stance of various women's organizations and government officials on the women's right issue is included under the ERA heading. Files pertaining to specific individuals associated with the women's rights movement include: Susan B. Anthony; ELizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; Eleanor Roosevelt; George Gordon Battle, an attorney working for the passage of the ERA; Mrs. Richard Anderson, the founder of the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Committee; and Constance Ashton Myers, a journalist and author who often focused on the struggle to obtain equal rights.

Box 3-Genealogical Information. Genealogical materials and family information on the Pollitzer, Edson, and Seeger families, including a will, graduation announcement, birth announcement, and newspaper clippings.

Box 3-Newspaper Clippings. Pertaining to Anita Pollitzer, her husband Elie Edson, the National Woman's Party, ERA, the United Nations, suffrage, and miscellaneous issues/people.

Box 3-Photographs. Portraits of Anita Pollitzer, family images, and group photographs of the National Woman's Party including Pollitzer. Also included are images documenting the various activities and individual members of the National Woman's Party and photographs of women's rights supporters.

Box 3-Bound Volumes, 1937-1946. Consisting of a 1937 publication by Sol Bloom, The Story of the Constitution given to Anita Pollitzer by Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman's Party, and the January 1946 issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science addressing the topic of essential human rights.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.

Extent

3.75 Linear Feet

Biographical / Historical

1894 Oct. 31-Born Charleston, SC, daughter of Gustave M. and Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer

1913-Graduated Memminger Normal School, Charleston, SC

1916-BS, Columbia University, New York, Department of Fine Arts

1918-Arrested at U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC, for suffrage picketing

1918-1921-National Legislative Secretary, National Woman's Party

1921-1926-National Secretary and Member of National Council, National Woman's Party

1927-Instructor of Art, University of Virginia and Columbia University

1927-National Vice Chairman and Congressional Secretary, National Woman's Party

1928 Dec. 29-Married Elie Charlier Edson, of New York

1933-MA, Columbia University, New York, Government and International Law

1939-1945-Member of National Executive Council and Vice Chairman of Congressional Committee, National Woman's Party

1942-1945-Chairman, New York City Committee, National Woman's Party

1945-Representative from National Woman's Party to first session of United Nations, San Francisco, CA

1945-1949-National Chariment, National Woman's Party

1949-1975-Honorary Chairman, National Woman's Party

1971-Elie C. Edson died

1975 July 3-Died, Queens, NY, age 80

Physical Description

Box 1-Biographical. Including various accounts of Anita Pollitzer's life and positions within the National Woman's Party, a biographical sketch from Who's Who of American Women, newspaper clippings announcing her marriage to Elie Edson, information on talks given by Pollitzer, obituary notices, and limited information on her husband.

Box 1-Correspondence, 1880-1973, undated. Consists of chronologically arranged family, personal, and business correspondence. The majoirty of letters reflect Pollitzer's involvement with the women's movement, particularly with the National Woman's Party. Several personal letters focus on both the financial struggle for Elie Edson and Anita Pollitzer as well as Elie's difficulty in securing steady employment. In the numerous correspondence with political figures urging action to be taken to ensure passage of the Equal Rights Amendment there are letters from many senators, governors, and members of Congress, including three men who would eventually become presidents-John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. Correspondence with various women's organizations that supported the ERA are also included in this series. Among these groups are the General Federation of Women's Clubs, American Medical Women's Association, Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Industrial Women's League for Equality, and Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic. The correspondence among members of the National Women's Party addresses such topics as the lawsuit brought by a splinter group against the party, the dire financial situation of the party, controversy over attempts to form a contract with a fund raising agency, and various intrigues concerning chairmen elections. Among the more prominent correspondents are Alice Paul, Burnita Shelton, Ethel Ernest Murrell, and Mrs. Richard Anderson.

Box 1-Writings, 1935-1962, undated. Including published works such as "Is the Law Unfair to Women?" an article appearing in the August 1943 issue of Woman's Day and the manuscript for A Woman on Paper: Georgia O'Keeffe, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1988. Additional files cover unpublished works as well as related drafts and notes, most of which deal with the issue of women's rights.

Box 1-Speeches, 1935-1962, undated. Including addresses given at meetings of women's organizations, at National Woman's Party conventions, and to government committees. The focus of these speeches is the need for equality of rights as well as the role of the National Woman's Party in attempting to secure these rights.

Boxes 1-3-Topical Files. Materials relating to Pollitzer's involvement in the National Women's Party and her interest in women's rights. Other related subseries include: World Woman's Party, United Nations, International and National Conferences on Women, and the Equal Rights Amendment. The topical file pertaining to the National Woman's Party includes information on the history, members, national conventions, and lawsuit as well as party publications, resolutions, press releases, minutes of meetings, and financial reports. The stance of various women's organizations and government officials on the women's right issue is included under the ERA heading. Files pertaining to specific individuals associated with the women's rights movement include: Susan B. Anthony; ELizabeth Cady Stanton; Lucretia Mott; Eleanor Roosevelt; George Gordon Battle, an attorney working for the passage of the ERA; Mrs. Richard Anderson, the founder of the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Committee; and Constance Ashton Myers, a journalist and author who often focused on the struggle to obtain equal rights.

Box 3-Genealogical Information. Genealogical materials and family information on the Pollitzer, Edson, and Seeger families, including a will, graduation announcement, birth announcement, and newspaper clippings.

Box 3-Newspaper Clippings. Pertaining to Anita Pollitzer, her husband Elie Edson, the National Woman's Party, ERA, the United Nations, suffrage, and miscellaneous issues/people.

Box 3-Photographs. Portraits of Anita Pollitzer, family images, and group photographs of the National Woman's Party including Pollitzer. Also included are images documenting the various activities and individual members of the National Woman's Party and photographs of women's rights supporters.

Box 3-Bound Volumes, 1937-1946. Consisting of a 1937 publication by Sol Bloom, The Story of the Constitution given to Anita Pollitzer by Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman's Party, and the January 1946 issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science addressing the topic of essential human rights.

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

Contact:
910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-3131
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

Author
James Edge
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script