The University of Colorado, Boulder, Regent Administrative Center 125, 552 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309
Columbia Cemetery Boulder, Boulder County, Colorado, USA
Edith Elizabeth DeLong was born October 1880 to Dr. Ira Mitchell DeLong and Elizabeth Ann Wright in Pella, Iowa. The family moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1888 where her father served as Chair of the University of Colorado, Boulder, Mathematics department. Smith had one sibling, her sister Ruth DeLong Avery Henderson, born 1892. The family were among Boulder's most prominent citizens.
Elizabeth, Ruth, and Edith DeLong, about 1900
DeLong attended University of Colorado, Boulder, and graduated in 1901 with a degree in Philosophy. While attending university, Smith founded the Alethea Society, a precursor to the Beta Mu Chapter of Kappa Gamma. In 1905, She married an investment speculator and owner of Alaskan gold mines named Adolph John (A.J.) Jarmuth. Jarmuth had two sons, Douglas and John, from a previous marriage. It is occasionally misreported that they were Smith's sons instead of her step-sons, but Smith had no biological children.
In 1907, the family moved to Berkeley, California. It was here that Jarmuth first emerged as a suffragist. Speaking to a reporter, she stated, “While I had always believed in woman suffrage before, I had taken it as a matter of course. When I lived in a state where women had no rights, however, the injustice of it dawned more strongly upon me, and I have been working for the cause ever since.” She became a member of the Berkeley Political Equity Club and in 1908 gave a speech to the Mill Valley Suffrage Club. Though A History of Woman Suffrage credits her with participation in the January 1908 California State Federation of Labor Convention, where an amendment for woman's suffrage was put forward, her activities are not acknowledged by other sources, such as the convention Proceedings.
The family moved again in 1908, this time to Seattle, Washington, and Jarmuth immediately resumed her suffrage activities. She was known for going into department stores and factories to recruit suffrage workers and regularly delivered talks to local suffrage clubs. She wrote several newspaper editorials and both A History of Woman Suffrage and a Seattle Star article give her credit for authoring a popular leaflet titled “The Women of Washington Want the Ballot: Why?” Among the eight reasons given are, “Because those who obey laws should have something to say as to their making” and “Because it is the most womanly, economical and efficient way of influencing public affairs.”
In 1909, Jarmuth was at the center of a controversy that shocked the Washington Equal Suffrage Association (WESA). The issue started with anonymous letters allegedly delivered to Jarmuth and other younger members of the Association. As the newspapers put it, the group was already seeing divisions between the “younger” and “older” factions. When Jarmuth refused to sign a pledge to reelect Emma Smith DeVoe as President of the WESA ahead of the 1909 National Woman's Suffrage Association convention in Seattle, it fueled speculation that Jarmuth intended to run for President herself. Though she had actively supported renowned Spokane suffragist May Arkwright Hutton gathering opposition to DeVoe, Jarmuth adamantly denied she was seeking the presidency. However, when the entire Spokane delegation was denied voting rights at the convention, Jarmuth sided with Spokane and joined other Seattle suffragists in forming their own association. While modern reports focus on the feud between Hutton and DeVoe, Jarmuth was equally prominent in news stories of the day. Despite the discord among the clubs they were reported as working together for the cause and Washington would pass equal suffrage in 1910.
Jarmuth experienced a rather sensationalized divorce in 1915, in which her husband alleged her suffrage activities had “destroyed the domestic side of her nature.” She was served in New York where she was living while completing post-graduate work in creative writing at Columbia University. The high-profile separation was used by anti-suffragist Mrs. William Forse Scott as evidence that women's political participation could only lead to marital discord. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Jarmuth said, “She is a woman who has become possessed of pronounced views on woman's rights and kindred subjects.”
In 1918, Jarmuth was married again, this time to Edward H. Smith, a journalist at New York World and close friend of writer Theodore Dreiser. Though reports around the time of her divorce from Jarmuth stated she would continue suffrage activities in New York, her focus turned largely literary and theatrical. A member of the Greenwich Village Liberal Club, Smith moved in the same circles as Sinclair Lewis and Eugene O'Neill. Several of her poems are contained in the Jack London papers held by The Huntington Library and in her autobiography, anarchist Emma Goldman lamented Smith's unexpected death, while Goldman was in jail. Smith's death on June 6, 1919 was most frequently reported as pneumonia, though it may have been influenza related. Her body was returned to her parents in Boulder and she was interred at Columbia Cemetery. After her death, Dreiser immortalized her as the character Olive Brand in his work A Gallery of Women.
Smith is perhaps best summarized by a 1915 Seattle Star article as, “A leader in literary and social circles, a woman of beauty, a brilliant talker, she was considered among the most valuable suffrage advocates in Washington.”
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