In the fall of 1917, Marjorie Lobdell Addis marched into Central Park in New York City carrying a banner and the list of enrollments for Putnam County Suffragists. Alongside Mrs. C.A. Hopkins, Miss Kate de F. Crane, Miss May Fowler and her sister, Barbara Addis, Marjorie Addis was part of a local contingent of New York women fighting for their right to vote. The Women’s Parade for Freedom was considered one of the most important events in the Suffrage Movement and “the most striking and significant parade ever seen in New York City” according to The Brewster Standard.
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, and reflection on the women that worked tirelessly to further the equality and rights of women locally and nationwide puts Marjorie Addis in the forefront. Born in Brewster on September 11, 1890, “Marj” as she was known to family and friends, was a 1907 graduate of Brewster High school and Smith College in 1911. She received a master’s degree at Columbia University School of Business and attended New York University Law School.
Her dedication to public service didn’t stop with equal voting rights for women. In 1918, while working for Edith Diehl as her secretary at the Woman’s Land Army in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Marge was called to Federal service, appointed confidential secretary to Dr. H. W. Draper, Assistant Surgeon-General of the United States Public Health Service, who was sent by President Wilson to direct the campaign to stamp out the flu pandemic in Massachusetts.
In 1922, Addis came back to Brewster for good following the unexpected death of her father Emerson W. Addis, publisher and editor of The Brewster Standard. Never one to back down from a challenge, Marj, along with her brother, dedicated her life to providing fair and honest news to her community. In a 1976 interview with Jane McMahon of The Reporter Dispatch, she describes her early newspaper days when she was met with great opposition from the Ku Klux Klan, “They broke my window because we supported the repeal of Prohibition.” She also resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1939 after African American contralto Marian Anderson was turned away from performing in Constitution Hall because of her race.
In addition to running the paper, Marj continued to represent the Village of Brewster and Town of Southeast as a founding member of the Women’s Republican Club of Putnam County, a trustee of the Brewster Library, member of the District Nursing Association, and supporter of the Southeast Museum.
Alexandra Johnson, niece of Marjorie Addis and part-time Brewster resident, has fond memories of her Aunt Marj and of events in the Village of Brewster. She says her aunt rarely, if ever, reflected on the early days. “She was humble, I never knew she was a suffragist and she never spoke of her work the Women’s Land Army, Red Cross, or Victory Gardens either.”
“My Aunt Marj was an acquaintance of Eleanor Roosevelt, and one time Mrs. Roosevelt came to speak at the Wells Casino in Brewster,” says Johnson, “Aunt Marj told me to go sit on the sidewalk with my dog Taffy and wait, because Mrs. Roosevelt loves dogs. So, I did, and sure enough, Eleanor Roosevelt walked down the path toward me, patted my dog on the head and chatted with me. I will always remember that day.”
16 year-old Brewster High School junior, Skye Johnson along with her 13 year-old brother Samuel, can appreciate what their great-grandaunt contributed to the movement and her community. “I’m proud to have such an interesting history to my family. She obviously did something very important for women,” says Skye.
Southeast Museum Director, Amy Campanaro adds, “The Brewster Standard, under Marjorie Addis’ direction, captured the everyday lives of community members, as well as the community’s reaction to local and national events. This created the best gift a historical researcher could wish for, a complete picture of who we were as a community and how we rose to challenges.”
Marjorie Addis died on her 95th birthday in 1985 and The Putnam County Courier stated in her obituary; “Miss Addis was known for her independent thinking and her strong principles, which were evident in her editorial policies.”
Thanks to these principals, Marjorie Lobdell Addis contributed to many worthy causes, from women’s right to vote, to responsible journalism, and everything in between.
Samuel (13) and Skye (16) Johnson hold The Town of Southeast Bicentennial book, featuring their relative, Marjorie Addis. Photo courtesy of Erik Johnson.
An undated image of Marjorie Addis sitting at her desk in The Brewster Standard office. Photo courtesy of The Southeast Museum.