Caroline Lexow Babcock (1882-1980)

“It struck me, very young, that it was extraordinary that my father could vote and my mother could not. I thought it was an indignity. I couldn’t endure the thought that she was denied so basic a right of citizenship.”

          Caroline Lexow graduated from Barnard College in 1904. In 1915, she married Philip Westerly Babcock and moved to South Nyack. They had three children. When they married, her husband was not a supporter of votes for women. But by 1915 he had been convinced and voted in favor of the cause.

          Caroline was a passionate person, a peace activist who also opposed capital punishment. She supported birth control, the National Humane Society, and the American Indian movement. In college, she organized the Collegiate Equal Suffrage League of New York State and went on to work for the national group. She traveled around New York State and the nation lecturing on women’s suffrage, an idea that was not popular in every place she visited. Suffragists were insulted, ridiculed, and dismissed. Some even received threats for their involvement in the movement. Some towns refused to let them meet in public buildings. Once they were forced to have their meeting in a local cemetery among the tombstones.

          After women received the vote but were still being discriminated against in employment, education, athletics, and many legal matters, Babcock joined the National Women’s Party in 1924, the same year Alice Paul wrote the equal rights amendment. She continued her campaign for equality by working for the passage of the ERA. In a 1943 issue of the Herald-Tribune, she wrote that the ERA would “take from our Constitution its last surviving medievalism.” Caroline Lexow Babcock fought tirelessly for passage of the 19thAmendment. Even after women got the vote, she spent her life fighting for the equal rights amendment. “It’s right,” she would say, “it’s essential, and it will come.” At ninety-eight she still wore her ERA button as “war paint.” She died on March 8, 1980, before the final defeat of the ERA.

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