Suffrage in Waterbury

Ella Reeve Bloor

Lesson Plan & Activities

Woman’s activism took many paths in Waterbury and socio-economic class was a critical factor in determining the road taken. Among the leaders in moving suffrage forward in the City was reformer Ella Reeve Bloor. Bloor’s life story reflected the changing definitions and structure of family life just appearing in the early years of the 20th century. Born into a middle-class home, Bloor was married three times, was head of household as a single mother of six and she worked outside her home, often traveling great distances. Despite her class of origin, Bloor identified as a member of the working class. She was always concerned with the problems of working class mothers. And her consciousness of both suffrage and workers’ conditions began early in her life. As a labor reformer and women’s rights activist Ella Reeve Bloor was sent by the Connecticut Socialist party to Waterbury to advocate on the behalf of factory workers and to further the cause of enfranchisement.

Ella Bloor in 1910, Smith College Archives

She was dismayed not to find an active suffrage organization in the city and set about to establish one. Minutes from several 1908-1909 meetings of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association tell us about her efforts to build one and her work was well documented in regional newspapers. Such publicity proved valuable when in 1910, Bloor became a candidate for secretary of state on the socialist ticket. Her nomination was the first for a woman for state office in Connecticut. Bloor was not victorious in her run and that disappointment was one of two that followed into 1911 changing the course of her career. A speech Bloor presented on “The Cause and Cure of Child Labor” that got her fired from her job as a columnist at the Evening Democrat. Instead of a set-back, Bloor used the dismissal as instigation to put all her energies into labor reform. She was sent to Pennsylvania and Ohio to organize coal miners and began a successful career in helping the working class.

Brass Workers of the Scovill Manufacturing Company, Cover of Scientific American 12/12/1898, Mattatuck Archives

The city Bloor departed in 1911 had made significant strides on its path to suffrage as it built on previous achievements. Waterbury had adopted women’s school suffrage in 1893 which endorsed women’s’ vote on the city’s educational issues. The 1899 Official List of Women Voters named 282 women from diverse backgrounds. This advancement of political citizenship had became commonplace by 1913, enough so that some Waterburians were singing a catchy tune about it. Emily Mougenot, employed at the Oakville Company a manufacturer of wire and metal goods such as safety pins, wrote the words and music to “Those Dear Old Suffragettes.” Vocalists may not have found the lyrics memorable but the sentiment had a lingering impact, “Yes you bet, you will get, votes for the Suffragettes.” Connecticut was slow, however, to wholeheartedly sanction enfranchisement. When state representatives met for the vote on September 14, 1920, the 19th amendment was officially part of the US Constitution.

Cover, sheet music Those Dear Old Suffragettes, Library of Congress Art & Music Division


For more about suffrage in Waterbury, see the article “Waterbury’s Women’s Clubs” in the upcoming Summer 2020 issue of Connecticut Explored.


Lesson Plan and Activities

Lesson Plan: Women’s Suffrage
Activity: Hold a Mock Election
Activity: Make Your Own Paraphernalia
Activity: Votes for Women Word Search

Other Resources

Connecticut Suffrage Centennial
Suffragettes on Nat Geo Kids
Women’s Suffrage on Brain Pop
Women’s Suffrage Activities at the National Park Service

Celebrate Women’s History

Ladies of Rose Hill
Women’s Art Portal at the National Museum of Women in the Arts