Maud Nathan's sister, Annie Nathan Meyer

Title

Maud Nathan's sister, Annie Nathan Meyer

Description

I was prepared to hate Annie Nathan Meyer because of her vehement anti-suffrage views. But it’s hard to hate a woman whose autobiography, published posthumously, is called “It’s Been Fun.”

Annie Nathan Meyer founded @BarnardCollege in 1889. Women couldn’t study at @Columbia or anywhere in the city. She raised support for the college by appealing to New Yorkers’ chauvinism - Boston & Philadelphia already had liberal arts colleges for women.

Unlike her older sister Maud (see yesterday), Annie had no formal education. While Maud and their brothers went to school, their mother kept Annie at home for company. Annie educated herself, reading Margaret Fuller, George Eliot & Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Annie became an accomplished author of nonfiction, fiction, plays, and many effective letters to the editor. She was a progressive in many ways, especially in her commitment to African-American rights. The NAACP called on her to broker Black/Jewish conflicts.

She quit the DAR because they supported segregation. She was instrumental in making Zora Neale Hurston the first Black student at @BarnardCollege, and they became genuinely close friends. Hurston dedicated “Mules and Men” to her.

Somehow this champion of women’s education, a public and professional woman her entire life, didn’t think women should vote. Her anti-suffrage views are odious. She argued that women’s primary obligations were domestic, and voting would inevitably corrupt domesticity.

She wrote a polemical, never-produced play called The Dominant Sex, in which the protagonist, a suffragist and clubwoman, “neglects her home and child and shows nothing but icy contempt for her husband.”

The only explanations historians offer for her persistent hostility are (a) contempt for some suffragists’ overblown claims that women’s votes would cure all social ills, and (b) sibling rivalry.

The public enjoyed the spectacle of the sisters at odds, noting gleefully when Annie was invited to a suffrage luncheon at which Maud was to give the keynote. The New Republic published their dueling letters to the editor for decades. They both lived long lives full of accomplishment. Though Annie felt unappreciated by Barnard in her lifetime, today the @BarnardCollege website cites her as the founder--though it doesn’t mention her anti-suffragism.

For more, read Louise Bernikow's thoughtful comparison of the sisters for Barnard’s alumnae magazine. #Suffrage100 #HappyPassover 

Creator

Daily Suffragist

Date

12/04/2020

Files

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Citation

Daily Suffragist, “Maud Nathan's sister, Annie Nathan Meyer,” Daily Suffragist, accessed September 21, 2021, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/348.

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