Woman of the Century/Rachel Foster Avery
AVERY, Mrs. Rachel Foster, woman suffragist, born in Pittsburgh, Pa., 30th December, 1858. Her father was J. Heron Foster, of the Pittsburgh "Dispatch." Her mother was a native of Johnstown, N. Y., the birthplace of her Sunday-school teacher and life-long friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. When Rachel was a child, Mrs. Stanton lectured in Pittsburgh. Shortly after, a suffrage meeting was held in Mrs. Foster's house, and a society was formed of which she was made vice-president. Thus the young girl grew up in an atmosphere of radicalism and advanced thought. That she is a woman suffragist comes not only from conviction, but by birth-right as well. In 1871 the family, consisting of her mother, her sister, Julia T., and herself, the father having died shortly before, moved to Philadelphia, where they at once identified themselves with the Citizens' Suffrage Association of that city, in which Lucretia Mott, Edward M. Davis, M. Adeline Thompson and others were leading spirits. Her sister, Julia, was for many years a most efficient secretary of that society as well as recording secretary of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and seconded warmly the more active work of her sister, Rachel G., as did also their mother, Mrs. Julia Foster. Both mother and sister have passed away, but their works live after them. When about seventeen years old. Miss Foster began to write for the newspapers, furnishing letters weekly from California and afterward from Europe to the Pittsburgh "Leader." Later she took part in the Harvard examinations, traveled extensively in Europe with her mother and sister, and studied political economy in the University of Zurich. In the winter of 1879 she attended for the first time a Washington, D. C, convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association, the eleventh, and the impression she there received determined her career, for she has ever since held high official positions in that powerful association. With her characteristic promptitude she began at once to plan the series of conventions to be held in the West during the summer of 1880, including the great Farwell Hall meeting in Chicago, during the week of the Republican national nominating convention, the gathering in Cincinnati at the time of the Democratic nominating convention, and the two-day conventions in Bloomington. Ill., in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Lafayette, Ind, in Grand Rapids. Mich., and in Milwaukee, Wis. In the spring of 1881 she planned the series of ten conventions to RACHEL FOSTER AVERY. be held in the different New England States, beginning with the annual meeting of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Tremont Temple, Boston, during the May anniversary week. In 18S2 she conducted the Nebraska amendment campaign, with headquarters in Omaha, making all the appointments for the twelve speakers to be employed by the National Association during the last six weeks before the election. To secure the best leaflet possible, she engaged Gov. John W. Hoyt of Wyoming, to give a lecture in Philadelphia on "The good results of thirteen years experience of woman's voting in Wyoming Territory," had the lecture stenographically reported, collec ted the money to publish 20,000 copies, and scattered them broadcast over the State of Pennsylvania. On the morning of 22nd February, 1883, Miss Foster sailed for Europe with "Aunt Susan," as she always affectionately called Miss Anthony, and with her superior linguistic attainments she served as ears and tongue for her companion in their journeyings through France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Miss Foster's management of the International Council of Women held in Washington, D. C, in February, 1S8S, under the auspices of the National Woman Suffrage Association, was the crowning effort of her executive genius. There were forty-nine official delegates to that council, representing fifty-three different societies from seven distinct nationalities. The expense of this meeting made a grand total of fourteen-thousand dollars, the financial risk of which was beforehand assumed by Miss Anthony, supported by Miss Foster. Although Mrs. Foster-Avery devotes her best energies to the suffrage cause, she does not confine to that one channel her "enthusiasm of humanity." She is a philanthropist in the broadest sense. Of her independent fortune she contributes most liberally, of course, to her best loved work, but she also gives largely to numerous reforms and charities that commend themselves to her interest and approbation. In 1887 she adopted a baby girl of five months and gave her the name of Miriam Alice Foster. In her marriage with Cyrus Miller Avery, which took place 8th November, 1888, Miss Foster entered a life companionship full of sympathy with her special aims and interests, for of Mr. Avery it may be said as surely as of herself that he is "a woman suffragist, not only by conviction, but by birthright as well." Mr. Avery had accompanied his mother. Mrs. Rosa Miller Avery, president of the Anthony Club, of Chicago, to the International Council, and his association with Miss Foster there furnished the romance of the occasion which culminated in their union a few months later. In strict accordance with the past life of the bride was the ceremony which was performed by the Rev. Charles G. Ames, pastor of the First Unitarian Church, Chicago, assisted by Rev. Anna H. Shaw, the only woman in holy orders in the Methodist Protestant church of the United States. Immediately after their marriage, Mr. Avery took legal steps to add his name to that of his wife's adopted child. They have two children of their own, Rose Foster Avery and Julia Foster Avery. Mrs. Foster-Avery at present holds the office of corresponding secretary, not only of the National Suffrage Association, but also of the National and of the International Councils of Women, each of which three bodies is to hold a convocation in Chicago in 1893. The "Transactions of the National Council of Women of the United States, assembled in Washington, D. C, February 22nd to 25th, 1891" (Philadelphia 1891), was edited by Mrs. Foster-Avery.