John Pixley Dorr

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Nebraska Suffrage 101: Rheta Louise Childe Dorr

The next phase of Nebraska’s women’s suffrage story has a direct causal link to the wave of support shown for the cause in the 1860s through the 1880s.

Rheta Childe Dorr was born in Omaha in about 1868 to Edward Payson Child and Lucille Mitchell, who at the time lived at the International Hotel on 11th and Dodge.[1] She grew up amidst the high-profile speeches, parades, and conventions that were so common in Nebraska leading up to the 1882 vote for women’s suffrage. When she was twelve years old, she famously snuck out of her house one night to attend a speech given by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her name soon appeared in the newspaper as a new member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, having spent her only silver dollar to pay the dues.[2]

She would soon go on to study journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, staying active in women’s suffrage and other progressive causes. After two years in Lincoln, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in newspaper. She married John Pixley Dorr and briefly moved to Seattle, but when their marriage dissolved, she returned to New York City and became an investigative reported for the New York Evening Post. After leaving the Post in 1906, she traveled through Europe and began focusing more on the issue of suffrage, writing several pieces voicing the plight of working-class women. In 1910, these articles were assembled and published as a volume entitled What Eight Million Women Want.

Rheta Childe Dorr (right) and British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1913, she became the first editor of the new newspaper The Suffragist. This publication, founded by Alice Paul, provided national documentation of protests and arrests and also featured editorials and cartoons that depicted trends within the movement and brought women’s suffrage to an even wider audience.

Rheta Childe Dorr. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A 1917 issue of The Suffragist. Image courtesy

And because this year is an election year, you can show your appreciation for Rheta Childe Dorr’s work toward voting equality by making sure you’re registered to vote!

[1] Collins’ Omaha City Directory. Compiled by Charles Collins, July 4, 1868.

[2] Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, “Rheta Childe Dorr”, 2020.

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