4 Boss Suffragettes of Missouri History
Welcome to the Suffragette Edition of our look at the boss women of Missouri history. We’re recognizing these four women today in honor of the centennial of the Golden Lane, when nearly 2,000 suffragettes donned yellow sashes, busted out their yellow parasols, and lined St. Louis's Locust Street for miles. This visible call for women’s voting rights occurred during the 1916 Democratic Convention. The attending politicians couldn’t help but notice the women as they walked from their hotel to the Coliseum.
Born in 1824, Minor moved to St. Louis around age 20. During the Civil War, she was involved with the St. Louis Ladies’ Union Aid Society, and in 1867 she became the first president of the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri. Minor tried to register to vote in 1872; when that didn’t work, she filed suit against the state of Missouri. Although she didn’t win in the courts, she continued fighting for women’s suffrage, even serving as the honorary vice president of the Interstate Woman Suffrage Convention in 1892.
A contemporary of Minor, Clapp also served in the St. Louis Ladies’ Union Aid Society during the Civil War. After working tirelessly to care for sick and injured soldiers during the war and establishing the Lawson Hospital to aid both black and white war refugees, Clapp became a founding member of the Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri, dedicated to winning the vote for women.
Blair was a college-educated native of Joplin, Missouri, born in 1877. A passionate reader and writer, she became the publicity chair for the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association in 1914 and served as editor for the group’s monthly publication, Missouri Woman. In 1920, Blair became one of the founding members of the League of Women Voters. After women won the right to vote, she stayed involved with politics, founding the Women’s National Democratic Club and even serving as the national vice chairman for the Democratic Party—the first woman to hold a prominent position in the party.
Usher got involved with the women’s suffrage movement as a teenager, working on a federal petition drive for a suffrage amendment alongside “old-time” suffragist Victoria Conkling Whitney. With Whitney’s urging, Usher co-founded the Equal Suffrage League of St. Louis in 1910 at just 19 years old. She also served as the group’s first president. After women won the right to vote, Usher turned her activist spirit to the efforts of the Urban League.
—Emily Underwood, Director of Community Programs