The Nathan Sisters

Title

The Nathan Sisters

Description

Two sisters were among New York’s most prominent society women at the turn of the last century…one a vigorous suffragist, the other an equally committed anti-suffragist.

Guess which one founded @BarnardCollege?

Maud Nathan and Annie Nathan Meyer descended from an illustrious Sephardi Jewish family with roots dating to before the American Revolution. Benjamin Cardozo and Emma Lazarus were cousins.

Maud and Annie’s childhood was chaotic, but they both married wealthy men they liked--and settled into lives as upper-class, society matrons - dues-paying members of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

But they were both restless, and both radical. We’ll meet Maud Nathan today; Annie Nathan Meyer tomorrow.

Maud’s life revolved around society galas and summers in Saratoga Springs - until her only child died at 8 years old.

Her friend Josephine Shaw Lowell, a founder of the New York Consumers League, urged Maud to direct her grief into supporting working women.

By 1897 Maud was president of the NY Consumers League, a post she held for 30 years. The League worked to improve working conditions and enlist consumers in taking responsibility for the conditions in factories and stores.

Maud scandalized her family by embracing suffrage.

She even defended the radical tactics the Pankhursts were using in the UK. She noted: “While the suffragettes were quiet and well behaved, members of the House of Commons paid no attention to them...”

Here is Maud in 1913 at the Intl Suffrage Convention in Budapest.

Her husband Frederick shared her convictions, co-founding the Men’s League for Equal Suffrage. Together they marched down 5th Avenue--pretty shocking for their class--and attended suffrage conventions. He was undeterred when newspapers snidely referred to him as Mr. Maud Nathan.

After he died, Maud spent 25 years with her partner Corinne Johnson.🏳️‍🌈They bought a house in Litchfield, Conn., started a community action group and supported the local schools.

Meanwhile, Annie continued her own activism - radical and contradictory in many ways. Stay tuned! 

Creator

Daily Suffragist

Date

10/04/2020

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Citation

Daily Suffragist, “The Nathan Sisters,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 20, 2021, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/347.

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