Louisine Havemeyer
Portrait by Mary Cassatt (freeart.com)

Women and Adversity: 

Louisine Havemeyer 

Suffragist, Art Collector

Socialite and art collector Louisine Havemeyer understood she’d probably be arrested and jailed if she participated in the suffrage demonstration in front of the White House on February 9, 1919. A group planned to burn in effigy a paper cutout of President Woodrow Wilson. Other women had been arrested and jailed for their demonstrations, but Havemeyer at 63 years old believed she had to do her part in supporting the suffragists.

She led the march to the White House and gave an impassioned speech. When she attempted to light the effigy, the police handcuffed and arrested her with 39 other women. Her family was horrified at the headlines announcing the arrests and jailings and sent her telegrams urging her to post bail. She didn’t and spent five days in jail. Havemeyer later wrote, “From them I gleaned I had stripped the family tree, broken its branches, torn up its roots and laid it prostrate in the dust.”

Louisine Waldron Elder was born July 28, 1855 in New York City to a prominent family, the second of four children. As a teen, she studied French at the prestigious Mme. Marie Del Sarte boarding school in Paris and met Mary Cassatt, the impressionist artist. She then became enthralled with art and admired the paintings by impressionists.

In 1883, Elder married wealthy divorcé Henry Osborne Havemeyer of the American Sugar Refining Company. The couple had three children: Adaline, Horace, and Electra. They built a mansion at Fifth Avenue and East 66th Street in New York City, which showcased their massive art collection.

After the death of her husband in 1907, Havemeyer became so depressed she considered suicide, but her daughter Electra encouraged her to participate in the suffragist movement. She then:

  • worked in The Shop, a Fifth Avenue storefront in New York City selling souvenirs and memorabilia to support the cause.
  • marched in the 1913 suffrage parade in New York City.
  • began speaking at suffragist events in 1914.

She remained friends with Cassatt and contacted her to help plan an art show featuring Cassatt’s works along with those of fellow impressionist Edgar Degas. Cassatt agreed if Havemeyer donated proceeds to the suffrage movement. Havemeyer held the exhibit in 1915 at the M. Knoedler & Company art gallery in New York City.

Havemeyer died January 6, 1929 at the age of 73. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City received almost two thousand pieces of her art collection, including works by Cassatt, Degas, and Rembrandt. I feature Havemeyer in my ebook: Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists, available at online venues.

More information:



Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I published three ebooks in 2020: Women and Adversity, Honoring 23 Black Women; Women and Adversity, Recognizing 23 Notable Mothers; and Women and Adversity, Saluting 23 Faithful Suffragists to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. These books are meant to be study guides for all students from grade school through college to help in choosing topics for assignments and to learn more about these noteworthy women. Go to amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and goodreads.com to learn more.

    Write a Reply or Comment About This Article

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Time limit exceeded. Please complete the captcha once again.


    Subscribe to Blog via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 219 other subscribers

    Discover more from Jo Ann Mathews

    Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

    Continue reading