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Davis, Dwight Filley, Mrs.

American, 1887 - 1955

Davis, Pauline Morton Sabin; Morton, Pauline; Sabin, Charles Hamilton Mrs.; Sabin, Pauline Morton


Born in Chicago, Pauline Davis was the first woman appointed to the Republican National Committee and a leading advocate of prohibition repeal in the early 1930's. Her father, Paul Morton, was a railroad executive, secretary of the navy under Theodore Roosevelt, president of the Equitable Life Assurance Society, and heir of the Morton Salt fortune (Mrs. Davis in turn inherited several million dollars from this source). Her grandfather, J. Sterling Morton, served as a Senator from Nebraska and Secretary of Agriculture for President Grover Cleveland. Mrs. Davis' interest in politics was sparked when she was sixteen, on a trip with her father to Washington, D.C. At twenty, she married James Hopkins Smith of Boston, interrupting her political activities to raise two sons. They divorced in 1914, and in 1916 she married Charles Hamilton Sabin, chairman of the Morgan Guaranty bank in New York. She began giving parties to benefit the local Republican party, and later became the first woman appointed to the Republican National Committee. The following year, her colleagues elected her to the Republican Executive Committee. She travelled extensively, urging women to become more involved in the political process. Originally a supporter of the prohibition for the sake of her sons, she eventually decided "that whether my sons drank or not was my responsibility, not the government's" (quoted in Urofsky), calling Prohibition a failed experiment that bred crime and disrespect for the law. The issue caused her to change her political affiliation to Democrat, though she remained relatively conservative. When Mr. Sabin died in 1933, she withdrew somewhat from political activity, but did express her dissatisfaction with Roosevelt's New Deal programs. She returned to the Republican party in 1936. The same year, she married Dwight Filley Davis, formerly secretary of war under President Coolidge and governor-general of the Philippines under President Hoover. During WWII, Mrs. Davis directed the volunteer special services for the American Red Cross, enrolling over three million women as volunteers and receiving the British Dame of St. John Award before her retirement due to ill health in 1943. Also a patron of the arts, she gave a portrait by Romney to the National Gallery of Art in 1948.


New York Times Magazine [article on Davis' public career]. 8 May 1932.
Newsweek [on Davis and her career]. 8 July 1933.
Urofsky, Melvin. Entry on Davis in Dictionary of American Biography. 1955: 156-157.

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