Anita Lily Pollitzer was from Charleston, South Carolina, where her father worked as a cotton exporter and civic reformer. Her mother, Clara Guinzburg Pollitzer, was the daughter of an immigrant rabbi from Prague. Pollitzer graduated from Hunter College and taught German before marrying freelance press agent Elie Charlier Edson in 1928. Edson encouraged Pollitzer in her career and her studies.
Pollitzer also trained as an artist in New York City and studied with Alfred Stieglitz. She graduated from the School of Practical Arts at the Teachers College at Columbia University in 1916, where she was a good friend of Georgia O'Keeffe. Pollitzer also earned a master's degree in international law from Columbia University in 1933.
Pollitzer turned to the suffrage cause while at home on a vacation break from school. Her two sisters, Mabel and Carrie Pollitzer, as well as two aunts, were active in the local suffrage movement. Her family was supportive of her move to Washington after her graduation from college to work for the NWP.
Pollitzer became a stalwart of both the suffrage and equal rights movements. She traveled extensively across the country to speak, organize, and participate in picketing. As a young activist, Pollitzer was praised by her co-workers and NWP head Alice Paul for her ever-sunny disposition and effectiveness in fund-raising and speaking. As she became older, her leadership was publicly and privately challenged.
Pollitzer had a personal hand in the lobbying effort that helped secure the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In August 1920, the night before a special session of the Tennessee legislature voted on the amendment, she dined with legislator Harry T. Burn. The next day, Burn cast the critical vote making Tennessee the 36th and decisive state to ratify the amendment.
Pollitzer's career in the NWP extended well after suffrage was won. She began a long-time stint as a member of the NWP executive committee in 1921 and served as national secretary (1921-26), national congressional secretary, Congressional Committee vice-chairman, national vice-chairman (1927-38), and national chairman (1945-49). When Alice Paul proposed the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment in Seneca Falls in 1923, Pollitzer seconded the proposal. She wrote for Equal Rights and testified repeatedly before congressional committees, working nationwide to bring the ERA successfully to the Senate calendar for the first time in 1938.
That same year, Pollitzer was influential in the passage of the National Fair Labor Standards Act and joined with Paul to form the World Woman's Party (WWP), which worked for recognition of women's equality in the United Nations charter. Pollitzer was a delegate to the San Francisco conference of the United Nations in 1945, the same year that she succeeded Paul as NWP chairman. She became vice chairman of the WWP, and she and Paul were also active together in the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Pollitzer was honorary national chairman of the NWP from 1949 until her death. She died in Queens, New York, at the home of a caretaker.
Woman Suffrage and the New Democracy
The woman suffrage movement achieved its goal by forging a highly organized and centrally controlled interest group, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), one of the most effective single-issue pressure groups in the United States