ELIZABETH GLENDOWER (GARDINER) EVANS, 1856-1937

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Elizabeth Glendower Evans (February 28, 1856 - December 12, 1937), was born Elizabeth Gardiner in New Rochelle, New York, the fourth of five children of Edward and Sophia Harrison (Mifflin) Gardiner. EGE's father died when she was three years old and, as she writes in her "Memoir," "We were imported to Boston by my father's father, William Howard Gardiner, where we grew up as poor relations of a very aristocratic family." After two years in Brookline Mrs. Gardiner moved her family into Boston . EGE attended private schools; in her teens, "Going to church became my one interest." She attended Trinity Church, where she was inspired by the teachings of Phillips Brooks. EGE taught Sunday school and planned to become a missionary until, in 1877, she met Glendower Evans, then a student at Harvard College and a close friend of William James. They were married in 1882, after GE had finished Harvard Law School and entered a Boston law firm.

Their marriage was brief because GE died suddenly in 1886. During these four years, according to EGE's "Memoir," the "doors were always open to the friends he made. In those days I don't think I ever talked at all. I used to sit by the fire and listen and listen...." The friends she listened to included Louis Brandeis and William James, but it was her husband who had the greatest influence on EGE. From their first meeting he encouraged her to read more widely; literature, politics, social issues, and public service were the major topics of his letters and their discussions. After GE's death EGE added his name to hers and, as the following chronology shows, dedicated her life to studying social conditions and helping others.

  • 1886 - 1914 : trustee, Massachusetts State Reform Schools
  • 1890's: attended philosopher Josiah Royce's courses at Radcliffe College
  • 1891: appointed by Boston Mayor Nathan Mathews to a special committee to inspect the public institutions
  • 1903: met Florence Kelley
  • 1905: helped raise money for strikers in Haverhill, Mass.
  • 1907: visited Georgia and Alabama to study child labor conditions
  • 1908 - 09 : went to England to study the socialist movement, met Margaret Bondfield, John and Katherine Bruce Glasier, J. Ramsay MacDonald
  • 1909: attended Women's Trade Union League convention in Chicago, and met Robert M. and Belle La Follette in Wisconsin
  • 1909 - 35 : contributor to LaFollette's Weekly (later Magazine) and it's successor, The Progressive
  • 1910 - : made first suffrage speech; joined Roxbury, Mass. carpet workers' strike
  • 1911: appointed by Massachusetts Governor Eugene N. Foss to the minimum wage commisson
  • 1911: observed first Lawrence, Mass. Strike, met William D. ("Big Bill") Haywood
  • 1912 - 14 : spoke in support of suffrage in Massachusetts, the Midwest, and to President Woodrow Wilson in Washington, D.C.
  • 1914: traveled to Panama with Belle La Follette
  • 1915: U.S. delegate to the International Congress of Women in The Hague
  • 1916: campaigned for President Wilson
  • 1919: joined the picket line at the second Lawrence, Mass. strike
  • 1919 - 20 : trip to England and continent
  • 1920 - 37 : national director, American Civil Liberties Union
  • 1920 - : put up liberty bonds to bail out aliens held at Deer Island; met Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti and became their personal friend and a leading supporter of their cause
  • 1929: provided the funds for the Voluntary Defenders Committee
  • 1931: installed radios for the prisoners at the state prison in Charlestown, Mass.
  • 1933: was awarded the first annual Ford Hall Forum medal for "prominent service to human welfare"

EGE was extremely generous with the money she inherited, often sacrificing her own needs to help both individuals and the causes she supported. She died in 1937 at the age of 81 in Brookline, Massachusetts.

More biographical material is available in this collection (see Series I for EGE's "Memoir," diaries, articles, and tributes by others). See also the article in Notable American Women (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), which includes a list of additional sources. In the Jessie Donaldson Hodder papers (A-23) at the Schlesinger Library there are ten folders of EGE material, including correspondence and a diary . There is EGE correspondence in the La Follette Family collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

From the guide to the Papers, 1859 (1882-1944), (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers, 1859 (1882-1944) Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith Goldmark, Susan, -1941 person
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associatedWith James, Henry, 1879-1947 person
associatedWith James, William, 1842-1910 person
correspondedWith Kelley, Florence person
associatedWith Kelley, Florence, 1859-1932 person
associatedWith Kelley, Nicholas, 1885-1965 person
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correspondedWith Kent, Elizabeth person
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associatedWith La Follette, Fola, 1882-1970 person
associatedWith La Follette, Philip, 1897-1965 person
associatedWith La Follette, Robert M., Jr., 1895-1953 person
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associatedWith Lee, Joseph, 1862-1937 person
associatedWith Lee, Margaret (Cabot), 1866-1920 person
associatedWith Livingstone, Alice person
correspondedWith Long, Cedric person
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associatedWith Winter, Ella, 1898- person
associatedWith World Center For Women's Archive, Inc. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Germany
Europe
Subject
Capital punishment
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1856

Death 1937

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Ark ID: w6tz7xs2

SNAC ID: 22072207