Alison Turnbull (Mrs. J.A.H.) Hopkins (1880-1951)
By Alison Traweek: Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania
This biographical sketch was first published on the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States and appears here by permission. That database is accessible at https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/VOTESforWOMEN
New Jersey Women’s Political Union officer, first Chairman of the New Jersey branch of the Congressional Union, Chairman of the New Jersey branch of the National Women’s Party
Alison Low Turnbull was born May 20, 1880 in Morristown, N.J. to Frank Turnbull, a naval officer, and Marion Louise Bates Turnbull. She was privately tutored at home but received no formal education beyond that. She married insurance executive and suffrage supporter John Appleton Haven Hopkins in Morristown on October 8, 1901. The couple had three children. Hopkins was the aunt of socialite Marjorie Oelrichs.
Hopkins is best known as one of the “Silent Sentinels,” but was active in local social and charitable organizations first, which she credited with bringing her to the cause of women’s suffrage. She later worked for the New York and New Jersey campaigns related to the suffrage referenda and served as an officer of the Women’s Political Union. She was the first chair of the New Jersey branch of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in 1915 and was active in the National Woman’s Party as well.
Hopkins was a vociferous opponent of Woodrow Wilson during his 1916 reelection campaign due to his refusal in his first term to address the demands of the suffragists, although her husband was a supporter and personal friend of the president. Hopkins and other members of the National Woman’s Party followed William Jennings Bryan through Springfield, Illinois as he toured and gave speeches in support of Wilson. Hopkins and her party decorated their car with “Don’t Vote for Wilson” signs and held anti-Wilson demonstrations outside of the buildings where Bryan spoke.
On Bastille Day of 1917, Hopkins was involved in a suffrage protest outside the White House which resulted in her arrest and that of 15 others. They were sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse but were released within three days because Hopkins’s husband asked Wilson to issue a pardon. Hopkins objected to the pardon and returned to hold a solitary protest at the White House, carrying a sign reading, “We ask not pardon for ourselves, but justice for all American women.” Subsequently, she publicized photos of herself in her prison garb and gave lectures on her experience to raise awareness of and sympathy for the suffragist campaign.
After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Hopkins seems to have retired to private life. She opened a dress shop in Manhattan called Marjane Ltd. in 1923, and divorced her husband in 1927. She lived in New York City until her death on March 18, 1951.
Information on the Hopkins family, including an image of the family estate, is available in the files of the Joint Free Public Library of Morristown and Morris Township, Morristown, N.J. The family is also included in Scannell’s New Jersey’s First Citizens and State Guide, 1917-1918; 267-68. The Morris County Heritage Commission discusses Hopkins in the “Suffrage” section (http://morriscountynj.gov/mchc/exhibits/women/) of its online exhibit, Celebrating Exceptional Women from Morris County’s Past, and Janet Gibbs Albanesius wrote an entry on her for Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women, edited by Joan Burstyn.
Hopkins’s death is noted in The New York Times in “Mrs. J.A.H. Hopkins, Suffrage Leader, White House Picket in 1917, Jailed for Day Before Pardoned by Wilson, Dies at 70,” March 20, 1951, p. 29.