Although there had always been some male support for woman suffrage, men did not establish a men’s league until 1909. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, asked Oswald Garrison Villard, the editor of the New York Evening Post, to speak at the suffrage convention. While there, they discussed the importance of forming a men’s suffrage league, an idea Shaw had thought about for years. Villard was unwilling to head such an organization, but he discussed the plan with Rabbi Stephen Wise, who began talking more broadly about the idea.
Max Eastman grew up in a suffragist household--he was the son of Annis Ford Eastman, a Congregationalist minister and brother of the radical feminist and lawyer, Crystal Eastman. Eastman had already been thinking about a men’s league for woman suffrage, and agreed to organize the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage early in 1909. The good-looking Eastman traveled widely across the state to speak, frequently in colleges. Young women founded college equal suffrage leagues in his wake. James Lees Laidlaw, a prominent banker and the husband of suffragist Harriet Burton Laidlaw, headed the league. League members marched at the back of suffrage parades, symbolizing their support for the cause. Laidlaw is the only man listed on the League of Women Voters plaque commemorating state leaders of the suffrage movement, which was installed in the New York State Capitol Building in Albany.