Lillian Ford Feickert, 1877-1945
By Una Corbett, undergraduate student, Harvard University
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
Lillian Ford Feickert was born to Emeline and Herbert Ford on July 20th, 1877, in Brooklyn, NY. (Burstyn, 136) She married Edward Foster Feickert on December 6th, 1902, when she was twenty-five years old. The couple moved to Plainfield, NJ, where Feickert spent eight years as a homemaker and a volunteer in various organizations including the local Episcopal Church, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the New Jersey Women’s Suffrage Association (NJWSA). She served as president of the NJWSA from 1912 to 1920. (Burstyn, 136)
After the 19th amendment passed, Feickert turned her sights towards mobilizing female voters to advocate for political issues. Although she served as president of the New Jersey League of Women Voters for a year, she left the organization because she wanted to channel her energy towards partisan efforts. She argued that nonpartisan lobbying for women’s issues “went back to the kindergarten days,” and that women needed to affiliate with a party in order to have a real political impact. (Cott, 109) Feickert worked closely with the New Jersey Republican party as president of the New Jersey Women’s Republican Club, and eventually became vice-chairman of the New Jersey Republican Committee. She claimed she only accepted the vice-chairmanship after Republican lawmakers agreed that all political committees would have an equal gender balance, all juries would include women, and the New Jersey Department of Health and the State Board of Education would each have at least two female members. (Burstyn, 137) Even as vice-chairman, she was a vocal critic of the New Jersey Republican party; a 1924 New York Times article documents how she decried the inefficiency and dishonesty of Republican lawmakers, promising to investigate the New Jersey legislature so she could “put on the map the legislative promise-breakers and promise-k eepers.” A 1926 New York Times article reports how Feickert attacked Republican lawmakers at a meeting of the New Jersey Women’s Republican Club, saying “They have got to learn that they must live up to their pre-election promises, that they cannot win without the woman voters of the state.”
Feickert’s political advocacy resulted in the passing of the “Night Work Bill” in March of 1923, which prohibited women from working between 10pm and 6am in factories, laundries, and bakeries. However, Feickert’s criticism of New Jersey Republicans, as well as her strict focus on prohibition and women’s issues, caused her to lose favor with the Republican party. In 1925, Feickert lost the vice-chairmanship of the New Jersey Republican party. (Burstyn, 137) She was also faced with personal difficulties — her husband sued for divorce in 1925, citing “extreme suffering” caused by his wife’s focus on political activities and so-called “neglect” of the home. (New York Times) He married his secretary six weeks after the divorce.
In 1928, Feickert ran for United States Senate as a Prohibition candidate, but she was defeated. When prohibition was ended in 1933, Feickert retired from political life. (Burstyn, 137) She died of a brain hemorrhage on January 21, 1945.
Burstyn, Joan N. Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Women’s Project of New Jersey. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print.
Chapter XV: The National American Convention of 1915. In History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 5: 1900-1920, edited by Ida Husted Harper. (New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), p. 444.
Cott, Nancy F. The Grounding of Modern Feminism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. Print.
“Lillian Ford Feickert.” New Jersey Women’s History. Alice Paul Institute. 2014.
“Mrs. Feickert Denies Wine Drinking Story.” New York Times, Oct. 1928, p. 30.
National American Women Suffrage Association. “Minutes of the Suffrage Convention,” 1874, in Papers of Mary Ware Dennett, 1874-1948., Series III: Suffrage. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, MA.
Precker, Jennie E. Campaign poster. “Lillian F. Feickert: Candidate for U.S. Senator.” Special Collections/University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. Accessed February 28, 2017.
Rymph, Catherine E. Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism from Suffrage Through the Rise of the New Right. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
Special to The “Article 3 — No Title.” New York Times, Jan. 1925, p. 20.
“Republican Women Would Divorce Edge.” New York Times, Aug. 1926, p. 9.
“Woman Stirs Jersey G.O.P.” New York Times, 1924, p. 14.
“Topics of the Times.” New York Times, 1924, p. 18.