Marking women’s suffrage
Louisine Waldron Havemeyer

Courtesy of the Havemeyer family

Marking women’s suffrage

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
11/30/2017


ISLIP—When thinking of the women’s suffrage movement in this country, the names of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul easily come to mind. However, local resident Louisine Waldron Havemeyer (1855-1929) played an important part in that movement as well. Last Friday, a historic plaque was unveiled near her former residence in Bayberry Point, Islip, to recognize her involvement.

Members of the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet realized the story of Louisine when they looked into the hamlet’s history to find a connection to the suffragist movement on the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in New York. Her story was quite compelling.

Though the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally passed in 1920, there were many difficult years leading up to that privilege. Before then, women incited protests and held rallies all over the country that resulted in various states granting that right; some of them were still only territories at the time. New York granted women the right to vote in 1917.

Louisine, who was born into wealth and privilege, was an avid collector of Impressionist art and a philanthropist. Henry O. Havemeyer, her husband, had been the president of the American Sugar Refining Company, who in 1890 had purchased acres of land on the Great South Bay, which over the next 10 years was developed into Bayberry Point.

She had always been interested in women’s rights, and in particular, the suffrage movement taking hold in the country at the time. In 1915, Louisine lent a large portion of her art collection to an “Exhibition for Suffrage Causes” to help raise money to fund the various activities for that movement. She attended rallies and gave speeches and took part in a national demonstration in Washington, D.C., where the large group of suffragists marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, ending with burning an effigy of then-President Woodrow Wilson, who was not a supporter of women’s right to vote. 

Louisine and 28 other more vocal members of that rally ended up in prison. Later on, she and fellow jailed suffragists took part in the “Prison Special,” a train that crossed the country making stops to campaign for those rights. Their action had no doubt paved the way for the passing of the 19th Amendment. 

On a chilly November morning last week, Louisine’s grandson, Harry Havemeyer, and the Havemeyer family joined HSIH members to remember the work of this former resident.

“I feel very honored,” said Havemeyer, an author of several historical books.

“I never knew my grandmother. She died in 1929, the year I was born.”

He said that it was through his family that he learned about the rich history surrounding Louisine. He then presented HSIH president Madeline Hanewinckle with a signed copy of the book his grandmother wrote in the 1920s, “Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector.”

“This is really exciting,” said Hanewinckle. Noting that it’s the 100th anniversary of New York women winning the right to vote, she added, “A local resident helped us win that fight.” 

For more information, go to the website www.isliphamlethistory.org.