Born Nina Evans in Auburn, Kansas, Allender was the daughter of a superintendent of schools. She received formal training in art and studied at the Corcoran School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was an instrumental propagandist for the suffrage movement and the key artist on the staff of the NWP's publication,
The Suffragist .
In early 1913 Allender and her mother, Eva Evans–one of the first women employees of the Interior Department–received a visit from Alice Paul, whom they did not know, asking them to contribute money and time to the suffrage cause. Allender was working full time at the Treasury Department to support herself after her husband's desertion. Paul‘s appeal was hard to refuse, and Allender began a
long association with Paul and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU)–later the National Woman's Party (NWP).
At Paul's request, Allender submitted her first cartoon to The Suffragist , initially hesitating because she saw herself as a painter and not a cartoonist. From 1914 to 1922 Allender produced some 200 political cartoons that were published in The Suffragist and its successor journal, Equal Rights . Many of these cartoons featured what became known as the “Allender girl”–a positive
representation of a suffragist as a winsomely attractive, stylish, and self-possessed young woman deeply dedicated to the cause. This portrayal helped shift the public image of what a women's rights advocate was like. Other Allender drawings featured Uncle Sam, members of Congress, or the woman suffrage (“Anthony”) amendment itself in allegorical form, the latter often as a slim young girl
awaiting her rights.
The distinctive style of Allender's pencil drawings, along with the NWP's use of photography, provided readers with visual propaganda that helped convey information about current events and advertise the NWP cause, as well as to publicize graphically specific NWP activities. To view digital versions of Allender's suffrage cartoons, some of which originally appeared on the front cover of The
Suffragist , see the Sewall-Belmont House Web site .
Allender also spent time in the field as an organizer. She worked in Wyoming during the elections of 1916, informing fellow suffragist Margaret Foley, “I never enjoyed any thing more.” She remained active in the NWP during its campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, and served on the NWP council until poor health forced her resignation in 1946.