Dynastic politics


Dynastic politics


What does this guy have to do with this woman?

Hint: dynastic politics.

Charles S. Whitman was elected Governor of New York in 1914. 

By that time he was a committed suffragist. His wife Olive belonged to the Women’s Political Union, which was the spunkiest of New York’s white suffrage groups, founded by Harriot Stanton Blatch.

As the race for governor heated up in the summer of 1914, the Women’s Political Union was determined to get public commitments from the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Progressive Party. It was a crucial year.

Suffragists were at the midpoint of a multi-year attempt to amend the New York State constitution to add women voters. The amendment had passed the legislature once; it needed to pass again in the upcoming session and then be put to a statewide men’s referendum.

The Democrats and Republicans were both holding their conventions in Saratoga Springs. The WPU set up camp at the United States Hotel. They strung a 30’ banner across the hotel courtyard: “Women’s Political Union -- Votes for Women” and another one reading “Victory in 1915.”

Once Whitman’s support & the GOP platform were assured, they displayed huge posters: “Republicans Declare for Woman Suffrage.” Imagine the bunting in purple, green, and white: Harriot’s group borrowed the colors of the radical British suffragettes who inspired her.

Charles Whitman’s support for suffrage isn’t what got him elected - that would become clear when the statewide suffrage referendum failed a year later. Rather, he won on his reputation for fighting corruption as Manhattan District Attorney, where he had challenged corrupt police.

Despite that, he served only four years. When women could finally vote in New York, they didn’t turn out for Whitman. He lost in 1918 to Alfred E. Smith, the up-and-coming Catholic Democrat who was buoyed by the growing political power of NYC immigrants, male and female. 

Whitman’s son became a judge, and his grandson John became a banker. In 1974 John married a woman named Christie Todd, whose family was prominent in New Jersey Republican politics. Their first date was President Nixon’s inaugural ball. 

Christine Todd Whitman was elected governor of New Jersey 79 years after her husband’s grandfather was elected to the same office in New York. For the record, @GovCTW endorsed Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.



Daily Suffragist


November 12, 2020


Christie Whitman thread.png


Daily Suffragist, “Dynastic politics,” Daily Suffragist, accessed July 14, 2024, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/539.

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