Agnes M. Cromwell (1874-1959)
By Katrina Rex, MS, Communications and Content Manager, Rochester Institute of Technology
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
Finance Committee of the Ratification Committee
Education advocate, fundraiser, and civic leader Agnes Cromwell was born Agnes Mabel Whitney on June 11, 1874, to Stephen Suydam Whitney and Josephine Thomson in Morris Plains, New Jersey. On November 29, 1899, she married Seymour L. Cromwell. Mr. Cromwell served as president of the New York Stock Exchange from 1921-1924. The couple had four sons: Frederick, Seymour L., Jr., Whitney, and John. After her husband’s death in September 1925, Mrs. Cromwell maintained her civic commitments, supporting the women’s suffrage movement, as well as national and local unemployment relief efforts. Cromwell died May 15, 1959, at her home in Manhattan at the age of 84.
Cromwell was a member of the Mendham, New Jersey, Board of Education for 15 years, five of which she served as president. She was the first woman to serve on the New Jersey State Board of Education, serving on the Advisory Committee as well as committees for teacher training and normal schools. She was also the first woman to serve on the New Jersey State Hospital Board. During World War I, Agnes served on the Committee on Women’s Service as treasurer. This committee worked closely with the Red Cross and conducted a census of women who would be able to serve in industry while men were serving in the war.
In 1919, Cromwell joined the Finance Committee of the Ratification Committee, a campaign for the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, where she was an active fundraiser. The finance committee raised $10,000 during this time. The Ratification Committee was a group of New Jersey women’s organizations that included the Women’s Suffrage Association, the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Public Health Nursing, and the Teacher’s Association.
On January 27, 1920, in Trenton, the Ratification Committee organized a mass meeting to present a petition of more than 140,000 signatures to the governor, the speaker of the house, and the president of the Senate of New Jersey. More than 1,200 women attended, and the chairs of all the statewide groups each presented their petitions to the legislature.
Cromwell was a supporter of the Salvation Army and, during the Great Depression, contributed to the local chapter of the Emergency Unemployment Relief Committee. Later in life, she served as president of the New York Colony Club, an exclusive, women-only social club based on the model of upper class male-only clubs at the time. Her article, “Deflating the Ego,” was featured in Vogue magazine in February, 1950.
Education Bulletin, Volumes 8-9, (Trenton: New Jersey Dept. of Public Instruction), p.28.
“Obituary: Mrs. S. L. Cromwell, New Jersey Civic Leader,” New York Times, May 16, 1959, p. 23. The New York Times Company, New York, New York. https://nyti.ms/2h8coh0
Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey, (Trenton: J.A. Fitzgerald, 1921), p.147. Compiled by
J.P. Dullard, Trenton, New Jersey. https://books.google.com/books?id=WKpIAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
“Educational News,” Journal of Education, March 26, 1914. p. 359. Boston University, School of Education.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady; Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, (New York: Fowler & Wells, 1922), p. 428.
Clarke, Ida Clyde Gallagher, American Women and the World War, (New York: D. Appleton and company, 1918), p. 319.
Familysearch.org “Agnes Mabel Whitney.” https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3Aagnes~%20%2Bsurname%3Awhitney~%20%2Bbirth_place%3A%22New%20Jersey%22~%20%2Bbirth_year%3A1874-1874~