Elsie Hill was the sister of suffragette Helena Hill Weed and the daughter of Congressman Ebenezer Hill of Connecticut. After graduating from Vassar College, Elsie taught high school French before she decided to devote herself to full time suffrage work, becoming a significant figure in the movement.
In 1913, Alice Paul organized a massive protest march as counter programming to the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. Thanks to their political connections, Elsie and her mother Mary Eileen were able to convince the DC police to grand a permit for the march. Elsie organized the college section of the parade. In the end, the march proved to be disastrous when angry men attacked the marchers and the police declined to intervene. However, it was a turning point for the movement as the march focused the country’s attention on suffrage.
Elsie represented the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman’s Party at a 1916 Prohibition Party convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the photo above, Elsie is speaking in favor of suffrage at a street meeting during the convention. By the end of the convention, the Prohibition Party had endorsed women’s suffrage as part of their platform.
Elsie was arrested twice for her suffrage activities. In August 1918, Elsie was sentenced to fifteen days in District jail for speaking at a Lafayette Square meeting. In February 1919, she was sentenced to 8 days in a Boston jail for protesting President Wilson’s visit to the city.
Elsie’s 1921 marriage to Albert Levitt made national news because of her decision to retain her maiden name. Through his relationship with Elsie, Albert himself became an influential member of the women’s movement. He helped to draft the Equal Rights Amendment and as a judge in the US Virgin Islands forced the local government to abide by the 19th amendment and enfranchise women.
Elsie was active in international women’s rights and according to her close friend Alice Paul, was instrumental in the development of the UN Status of Women Commission.
In 1968, Elsie made headlines again when a the age of 85 she was among the passengers on the first flight from New York City to Moscow.