Margaret Elizabeth Bordner Baker (1846-1935)
By Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian
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
Vice President of the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA), Member of the Organizers Committee of NJWSA
The Wildwood, NJ suffragist Margaret Elizabeth Bordner Baker was born in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1846. Her father Jonathan was an architect and builder and mother Juliana Whitaker was a homemaker. Both her parents were descendants of colonial pioneers of Pennsylvania. In 1897 she married Jacob Thompson Baker (1847-1919), known as J. Thompson Baker, a law graduate of Bucknell University. The couple initially lived in Lewisburg, PA where J. Thompson practiced law. They had four daughters, Margaret Stuart, Katharine, Frances Whitaker, and Mary H. He became active in politics serving as the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic State Convention in 1905. J. Thompson and his two brothers purchased land along the New Jersey coast in the 1880s. In 1904 Margaret and J. Thompson built a summer home at 3008 Atlantic Avenue in Wildwood, NJ and by 1910 they had moved there permanently. The home was a gathering place for many important 20th century people including President Woodrow Wilson, several Speakers of the House, Congressmen, artists, and suffragists including Anna Howard Shaw. While living in Wildwood, J. Thompson continued to practice law and also entered the real estate business. He was considered a founder of Wildwood, was its first mayor from 1911-1912, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1912. Continuing his public service, in 1913, he ran as a Democratic and was elected as a New Jersey Representative to the 63rd United States Congress serving until 1915. The couple lived in Washington D.C. for two years while he served. He passed away in 1919 at the age of 72 and is buried in Cold Spring, NJ. Both daughters Katherine and Frances Baker were nurses who served during World War I. Katherine was awarded the “Croix de Guerre et Fouerragere” by the French Army for her service and was honored as one of four “Outstanding Heroines of World War I” by the Woman’s Overseas Service League Convention.
Margaret and her daughters, especially Frances, were very active in suffrage activities. It was stated in The Morning Post of Camden, NJ that, “Miss Frances Baker, of Wildwood, daughter of Congressman J. Thompson Baker, has worked with her mother, her three sisters and her aunt in the organizing of Cape May county for suffrage. In fact all the Bakers make suffrage very much a family affair.” In 1912 they formed the Wildwood Civic Club which held its meetings at their home on Atlantic Avenue.
Margaret’s first documented involvement showed that she served as a New Jersey delegate at the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Convention in 1913. Her first prominent role was helping to organize the “Votes for Women Flying Squadron” tour of Cape May County in August 1914. At stops along the tour, prominent local officials gave speeches, suffragists distributed literature and gathered signatures on petitions, and multiple luncheons and dinners were organized. Later that same year, Margaret and Frances traveled to Camden, NJ to attend the first New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA) Convention to be held in Southern New Jersey. At the convention Margaret made a report as the organizer of the league in Cape May County. During her report she said, “Our president has asked for a report from Cape May County. I fear that a truthful account could claim only much cry and little wool. We have not organized many new leagues. However, if we may measure our success by the charge of sentiment through the county, it is my opinion that we have grounds for optimism. We have also an intelligent, hard-working league at Wildwood, and these two combined in a tour of the county during August in thirteen motor cars.” Margaret was a prominent member within the NJWSA; serving on the Organizers Committee in 1915 and as one of the featured speakers at the 1916 NJWSA Convention held in Elizabeth, NJ. Daughter Frances was one of 43 New Jersey delegates to attend the November 1914 NAWSA Convention held in Washington, D. C.
Suffragists conducted education campaigns across the country to increase knowledge on why woman suffrage was important and the ways to become involved in the movement. As the representative of Cape May County, Margaret attended a suffragist meeting in Trenton, NJ in 1916 where the focus was on discussing the planned summer campaign of education to be conducted throughout New Jersey. Margaret continued her suffrage involvement into 1917 attending a suffrage rally in Riverton, NJ which consisted of a morning business session and then an afternoon open air conference on war relief work. At the 1917 NJWSA Convention held in Trenton, she was elected one of the vice presidents. She served on the Victory Convention Committee of the NJWSA in 1920. Her work in politics continued after the 19th Amendment was ratified. In October 1920, Margaret was chosen to serve as an elector-at-large for the Second District at the Democratic State Convention.
Margaret and her daughter Mary continued to live in the house in Wildwood until she sold it to the Wildwood Civic Club in 1934. She died in Wildwood Crest in 1935 at the age of 89.
www.njwomenshistory.com – Women’s History Trail/Wildwood Civic Club
Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress 1774-Present- www.bioguide.congress.gov
Rhodes, Susie Root, Grace Porter Hopkins, The Economy Administration Cook Book, (Hammond, IN: W.B. Conkey & Co. 1913), pg. 61.
“Delegates to National Convention,” The Central New Jersey Home News, December 9, 1913, pg. 4.
“Suffragists Tour Cape May County,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), July 20, 1914, pg. 11.
“First S. Jersey Suffrage Convention,” The Evening Journal (Vineland, NJ), October 27, 1914, pg. 3.
“State Suffragists,” The Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), November 6, 1914, pg. 14.
“Latest News from the Suffrage Camp,” The Central New Jersey Home News, January 4, 1915, pg. 2.
“Suffrage Women Will Soon Gather,” The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), January 20, 1916, pg. 12.
“Mrs. E. F. Feickert Chosen President,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), November 10, 1917, pg. 3.
“Suffragists Meet in Trenton,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), May 26, 1916, pg. 15.
“Prominent Women at Suffrage Rally,” The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), April 26, 1917, pg. 9.
“Edwards Chosen For Chairman,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), October 4, 1920, pg. 8.
- Federal Census: 1910
- US Cities Directories 1822-1995