Women We Celebrate

Hazel Hunkins

1890-1982


Hazel Hunkins (also known as Hazel Hunkins-Hallinan) was a scientist and writer, and activist in the American and British movements for women’s equality. She was born in Aspen, Colorado in 1890 and later moved with her family to Billings, Montana where she graduated from high school in 1908. She graduated from Vassar College in 1913, and later taught chemistry at the University of Missouri while undertaking graduate studies. Faced with fewer opportunities in the science field due to her gender, Hunkins ultimately turned her attention to woman suffrage, joining the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1916.

Hunkins quickly became involved in the NWP’s 1916 campaign against President Wilson and the Democratic Party—a tactic designed to pressure the President and his party for support of the proposed federal suffrage amendment. In the fall of 1916, Hunkins was one of many organizers sent to the enfranchised western states to work for the amendment and against the Democratic Party in the lead up the November elections; Hunkins was based in California.

In 1917, when the NWP launched its trailblazing picket campaign of the White House, Hunkins was at the forefront of these efforts, participating in numerous pickets between 1917 and 1919. On February 3, 1917, Hunkins represented the University of Missouri at the College Day picket. Later, on June 21, 1917, after a day and a half of attacks against the suffragists and their banners, Hunkins’ banner was ripped from her hands as she picketed. Picketing continued despite the violence, and Hunkins was later arrested during the picket of June 26, 1917 as she carried an NWP pennant in the party colors of purple, white, and gold. Hunkins was arrested again during the July 4, 1917 Independence Day picket while attempting to recover an imperiled suffrage banner from an onlooker. Though Hunkins’ case was dismissed, the majority of her fellow pickets were found guilty and sentenced to jail after they refused to pay their fines.

On August 6, 1918, Hunkins was arrested while speaking at a demonstration at the Lafayette statue. The meeting opened with remarks from Dora Lewis who was immediately arrested as she began speaking. Moments later, Hunkins leaped onto the base of the statue and began speaking in Lewis’s place, explaining: “Here, at the statue of Lafayette, who fought for the liberty of this country, and under the American flag, I am asking for the enfranchisement of American women” (The Suffragist, August 17, 1918). Hunkins was arrested right away, but was quickly followed by another suffragist and then another. During her trial, Hunkins spoke on her own behalf reportedly challenging the court’s jurisdiction by stating: “Women cannot be law breakers, until they’re law makers” (The Suffragist, August 24, 1917); she was sentenced to 15 days, ultimately serving 5 days and participating in a hunger strike. In December 1918, Hunkins was a torch bearer in the procession of women that marched from National Woman’s Party Headquarters to Lafayette Square to burn President Wilson’s speeches on democracy.

Hunkins held several leadership roles within the NWP, including NWP Organization Department Chairman in 1917 and Advertising Manager for The Suffragist newspaper from 1917 to 1918. She also helped to lead organizing efforts in her home state of Montana, including managing publicity and state-level organization for suffrage. In an October 28, 1917 letter to Alice Paul, Hunkins wrote: “Little by little I know I am softening the hearts of people towards the pickets and I am sure we will soon have the unqualified support of most women for it. When I think of what others are doing for the cause, I wish I could work twenty-four hours a day.”

In 1920, Hunkins moved to London, England where she worked as a stringer for the Chicago Tribune. She married fellow journalist Charles Thomas Hallinan, and became active in the British feminist movement. Hunkins was particularly active in the Six Point Group, a British women’s rights organization that fought for comprehensive equality for women—a policy position that contrasted with groups seeking protective laws for women. (Concurrently, the National Woman’s Party fought for an Equal Rights Amendment in the United States that would guarantee legal equality for women.) Hunkins also edited the Six Point Group publication, In Her Own Right.

In August 1977, Hunkins and others marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to commemorate Women’s Equality Day and the 1913 suffrage parade, and to advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment authored and introduced by the National Woman’s Party in 1923. Hunkins was also acknowledged in President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 Women’s Equality Day remarks. Hunkins passed away in London in 1982.