Wilson alumna, Hannah Patterson 1901, will be honored for her important role in the women’s suffrage movement with the dedication of a roadside marker in her name on the anniversary of her birthday, Thursday, Nov. 5. The ceremony takes place on campus along Route 11 near Sharpe House and will be live-streamed on Wilson’s Facebook page.

Attendees will include Wilson College President Wesley R. Fugate, Chambersburg Borough President Alice Elia, National Votes for Women Trail Pa. Coordinator Robyn Young, Hankey Center Director Amy Ensley, Past President of the Alumnae Association of Wilson College Mary Cramer, and Wilson College Alumni Relations Director Marybeth Famulare.

2020 is the centennial of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. To celebrate this milestone, The National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS) and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation have partnered to launch a new historic marker program commemorating the history of women’s suffrage in the United States. Markers highlight sites on the National Votes for Women Trail. The trail, a project of the NCWHS, identifies the many sites that are integral to the suffrage movement and makes them accessible on a mobile-friendly website to be easily searched by location, suffragist, ethnicity, and a variety of other criteria.

The Pomeroy Foundation, a private foundation, provides grants to recognize historically significant people, places, or things across the United States instrumental to women’s suffrage. The Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history. To date, it has awarded over 1,100 roadside markers and plaques nationwide.

Hannah Jane Patterson was born in Smithton, Pa., in West Newton Township, Nov. 5, 1879. After graduating from Wilson College in 1901, Patterson moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., and began working on reform issues, including juvenile justice, child labor laws, and public health.

In 1904, she was among a small group of women who formed the Allegheny Equal Suffrage Association. The organization expanded and established the Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania. By 1912, Patterson was elected to statewide office as the Chairman of the Woman’s Suffrage Party of Pennsylvania. In this capacity, she directed the three-year campaign to add a suffrage amendment to the Pennsylvania State Constitution in 1915.

Under her leadership, the party headquarters were moved from Philadelphia to Harrisburg to more effectively lobby the members of the state legislature. Although the amendment failed, Patterson was recognized for her political acumen and organizational skills. In 1916, she was elected Secretary of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under Carrie Chapman Catt. Patterson worked out of NAWSA headquarters in New York City and directed the individual state’s efforts to secure suffrage amendments to state constitutions. 

When NAWSA leadership offered its organizing abilities to aid in the war effort during World War I, Patterson was named Resident Director of the Woman’s Committee of the U.S. Council of National Defense. She directed the 48 state divisions and the 18,000 women’s organizations, including coordinating the flow of information between the federal agencies and the state divisions. This work earned her the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919. Following the war, she was appointed a member of the War Risk Insurance Advisory Council under the direction of Charles Evans Hughes and an assistant to the Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. Patterson continued to focus on women’s issues and politics throughout her life.

After having served as an alumna Trustee to Wilson College from 1913 – 1917, Patterson was named a Lifetime Trustee of the college in 1922 and served in various capacities, including as chair of the Honorary Degree Committee until her death, Aug. 21, 1937.

Published: November 2, 2020