Susan Walker Fitzgerald (1871-1943)
Susan Grimes Walker was born on May 9, 1871 in Cambridge, Massachusetts; her parents were Rear Admiral John G. Walker, U.S.N. and Rebecca White Pickering Walker. She majored in political science at Pennsylvania's Bryn Mawr College, an elite college for women that was associated with New England's Ivy League. Its president was Dr. M. [Martha] Carey Thomas, a leader in women's rights and close friend of Susan B. Anthony. Following this role model, Walker was elected class president and founded the student government association; after her 1893 graduation, she became Thomas' personal aide.
In 1901, Susan Walker married Richard Y. Fitzgerald, an attorney with whom she had four children, Anne, Rebecca, Susan, and Richard. They lived in New York City, where she worked at the Richmond Hill Settlement House. Settlement houses helped immigrants adjust to America and almost always were run by women who donated both time and money. They actively promoted liberal causes such as ending child labor, and Fitzgerald was appointed to the New York City Child Labor Committee.
Her connection to M. Carey Thomas led Fitzgerald to activism in the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association, and she also was elected recording secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. When the 19th Amendment was ratified, she was well prepared to campaign and win a legislative seat representing Jamaica Plain, a community southeast of downtown Boston. After her legislative service, she worked to promote her alma mater, Bryn Mawr, the General Alliance of Unitarians, and other organizations. Fitzgerald died on January 20, 1943.
Image credit: Courtesy of the State Library of Massachusetts.