Louisine Elder Havemeyer (1855-1929)


Louisine Elder Havemeyer, art collector, philanthropist, and suffragist, was born in New York city of wealthy parents. After her husband’s death (1907), Mrs. Havemeyer supported suffrage, helping Alice Paul found the Congressional Union and the Woman’s Party. Her name and social prominence gave respectability to the suffrage cause, and she enlivened her lectures with a suffrage “Ship of State,” a model of the Mayflower, outlined with hundreds of electric light bulbs powered by a battery. She popularized another symbol, “The Torch of Liberty,” passed from state to state during the multi-state suffrage referenda in the Northeast (1915). She was arrested trying to burn an effigy of President Wilson on the White House lawn with the Woman’s Party. Afterward she joined the “Prison Special,” a train taking jailed suffragists on a national speaking tour.

She attended a Paris boarding school and saved money to purchase a Degas, becoming the artist’s first American patron. She married Henry O. Havemeyer (1883), who became head of the American Sugar Refining Company. Their 5th Avenue mansion, designed by Tiffany’s, was the scene of society parties and weekly concerts. The Havemeyers, with artist Mary Cassatt as their adviser, became art connoisseurs and amassed a brilliant collection. She wrote two articles for Scribner’s Magazine, the “Suffrage Torch” and the “Prison Special.”  After her death at 74, her bequest of a major art collection to the Metropolitan Museum created a sensation.



Works Cited:

  • Reprinted from NWHM Cyber Exhibit "Rights for Women"
    Author Kristina Gupta
  • PHOTO: Louisine Elder Havemeyer, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division (mnwp 160058)