Harriet Burton Laidlaw

Lived:December 16, 1873—January 25, 1949 (aged 75)

Harriet Burton Laidlaw was a New York suffragist, reformer, and peace activist.

Laidlaw was born on December 16, 1873 in Albany, New York. When she was six, her father died and the family moved in with his parents. She completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pedagogy and taught public school in New York City. She received various degrees from Barnard College, Illinois Wesleyan University and Columbia University, while also taking courses at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. In 1905, she left teaching to marry James Lees Laidlaw, a banker. The couple had one daughter, Louise Burton Laidlaw.

Both Laidlaw and her husband shared a passion for woman suffrage. Laidlaw’s first role in the suffrage movement was as the secretary of the College Equal Suffrage League. Laidlaw’s husband was elected president of the Men’s League for woman Suffrage in 1910. Laidlaw was also the Manhattan borough chairman of Carrie Chapman Catt’s New York Woman Suffrage Party and an auditor for the National American Woman Suffrage Party. Laidlaw and her husband embarked on 2 speaking tours of the Western states in 1911 and 1914 to promote suffrage.

Laidlaw’s commitment to progress didn’t end with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. She served in a number of reform societies including the League for Civil Service Reform, the New York State Food Conservation Committee, the Children’s Aid Society, the Municipal Art League, and the New York State Prohibition Society. Laidlaw was also a passionate peace activist co-founding the League of Nations Non-Partisan Association and joining the Women’s Pro-League Council, the American Association for the United Nations, and the League of Nations Association. Later in life, Laidlaw cared for her husband through his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and became the first female member of the board of directors at Standard and Poor’s, a financial firm.

Harriet Burton Laidlaw died on January 25, 1949.

Neuman, Johanna. Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote. New York City: Washington Mews Books, 2017.

Petrash, Antonia. Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement. Charleston: The History Press, 2013.

Ennis, Lisa A. “Laidlaw, Harriet Burton (1873-1949),” in Women’s Rights in the United States: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Issues, Events, and People. Edited by Tiffany K. Wayne. Santa Barbra: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2015.