Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Women’s Suffrage Movement in America—Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne—52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #28


I wonder if the knowledge that women weren’t allowed to vote in the USA until 1920 bothers other women like it does me!? Not that I think about it often to tell you the truth, but every so often the topic comes up, and it just slays me! 1920! That makes me only the second generation of women who have had the right to vote—and vote I do baby! LOL My Mom was born in 1918, and I in 1949 — yet, I already took being allowed to vote for granted, never realizing what a fight it had been to get that right! Isn’t that amazing! Now I understand better why my Mom was such an advocate for voting! She worked the polls, took us, her four children with her at times to teach us how the voting worked, and generally was a strong activist!

Langhorne, Elizabeth Dabney

Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne, The Virginia Langhornes by James C. Langhorne, p. 183.

I learned that one of our cousins, Mom’s 1st cousin, 2x removed, was one of the strongest advocates for women’s rights in the state of Virginia (where my Mom and I were born, and where we both grew up)! I am so proud of this ancestor and cousin– Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne! She was the founder and President of the Equal Suffrage Club in Lynchburg, Virginia, then became the Vice President of the Equal Suffrage League of the State of Virginia! From the 1850’s to 1920 many women activists worked tirelessly to lobby their lawmakers, and convince their sisters and coworkers that women should have a voice in electing those who “ruled” them, those who made their laws, those who affected their families and their very lives.  They had to convince people that they were thinking people with brains like men! This was the 1900’s—almost 300 years after our country was first settled! Good grief, how did we let that happen? Black men were given the right to vote in 1870 by the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but women were still not allowed! Women all over the country gave speeches, held protests, demanded their rights…and time after time, they were turned down! They held parades, athletic competitions, wrote magazine articles—formed national and state organizations to try to organize their movement and their voice! By 1890, they were more united, lead by famous women like Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone. I thought this description in Wikipedia about suffrage was very interesting:

On January 12, 1915, a suffrage bill was brought before the House of Representatives but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174, (Democrats 170-85 against, Republicans 81-34 for, Progressives 6-0 for).[76] Another bill was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. On the evening before, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the bill. It was passed by two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Again President Wilson made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the amendment fell two votes short of the two-thirds necessary for passage, 53-31 (Republicans 27-10 for, Democrats 26-21 for).[77] On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon, and then it was lost by only one vote, 54-30 (Republicans 30-12 for, Democrats 24-18 for).[78] There was considerable anxiety among politicians of both parties to have the amendment passed and made effective before the general elections of 1920, so the President called a special session of Congress, and a bill, introducing the amendment, was brought before the House again. On May 21, 1919, it was passed, 304 to 89, (Republicans 200-19 for, Democrats 102-69 for, Union Labor 1-0 for, Prohibitionist 1-0 for),[79] 42 votes more than necessary being obtained. On June 4, 1919, it was brought the Senate, and after a long discussion it was passed, with 56 ayes and 25 nays (Republicans 36-8 for, Democrats 20-17 for).[80] Within a few days, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan ratified the amendment, their legislatures being then in session. Other states followed suit at a regular pace, until the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 36 state legislatures. After Washington on March 22, 1920, ratification languished for months. Finally, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee narrowly ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, making it the law throughout the United States.[81] Thus the 1920 election was the first United States presidential election in which women were permitted to vote in every state. Nearly twenty years later Maryland ratified the amendment in 1941. After another ten years, in 1952, Virginia ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, followed by Alabama in 1953.[82] After another 16 years Florida and South Carolina passed the necessary votes to ratify in 1969, followed two years later by Georgia[83] and Louisiana in 1971.[84] Mississippi did not ratify the Nineteenth Amendment until 1984, sixty-four years after the law was enacted nationally.[85]


Finally, in 1920, they convinced enough citizens—men—to ratify the nineteenth amendment to the constitution which simply says, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Thank God for the national laws regarding this particular issue! Otherwise, my Mother would not have been able to vote in her lifetime in Virginia either! Good grief! It is hard for me to believe that I really did not understand what a fight this had been. I, myself, stood up for, lectured for, and protested for women’s rights in the 1970’s—women’s rights to work, to make the same money as men, the right to birth control…and often I think my daughters just take their freedoms for granted. Well, I took the right to vote for granted! With all my Mom’s activism re. voting, I did not understand the history behind it until I started working on my family’s genealogy and discovered Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne, one of those amazing women who helped move our society forward! Thank you and I am proud to be related to you! I want to give James C. Langhorne, author of The Virginia Langhornes, kudos for writing about this dynamic woman in his book which got my attention! After reading about her in his book, I found an interesting little character sketch about her on ancestry.com, author unknown however. It said, Elizabeth Dabney “Lizzie” Langhorne Lewis: “Lizzie” Langhorne was born in Botetourt County. The family moved to Lynchburg, where she was tutored and attended private schools. In 1873 she married John H. Lewis, an attorney. Her great-niece recalled that she had “a well-reasoned mind, curious about all new ideas, accepting nothing until she was convinced.” She was very political for a woman of her era and was a popular speaker on behalf of woman suffrage and improved working conditions for women. Later in life, she championed the League of Nations. For years she played the organ at the tiny…Unitarian Church in Lynchburg. When she was over seventy she went to the Sorbonne in Paris to perfect her French. “She voted Socialist at eighty,” recalled a relative, “because she said she was tired of both Republicans and Democrats and she wanted a change.” I imagine there are many of us today, July 2014, who would agree with her that we are tired of both Republicans and Democrats. Our country seems more polarized than ever and it is easy to see how we fell into Civil War once before. I hope long before that happens, —we “enlightened people”—will work together to find our mutual path, our mutual joys, and move in a new direction to make our country whole again. We have to move away from blaming and on towards solving, so what positive thing might you suggest, positive remember! LOL

Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne (1851 – 1946)
is your 1st cousin 3x removed
father of Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne
father of John Scarsbrook Langhorne
son of Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne
daughter of James Steptoe  Langhorne
daughter of Evelyn  Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

4 thoughts on “Women’s Suffrage Movement in America—Elizabeth Dabney Langhorne—52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #28

  1. Way to go, Elizabeth! How wonderful to have such an activist suffragette as an ancestor. And I like the detail you added to her story. Hopefully it will do a bit of consciousness raising.
    My great grandmother told my mother that she just wanted to live long enough to vote. I tell the story here: http://ancestorsinaprons.com/2013/08/girl-bridge-hattie-stout/


  2. Way to go Elizabeth! How wonderful to have such an active suffragette in your family tree. And I like the way you tell the whole story–hopefully doing a little consciousness raising! My great grandmother told my mother she just wanted to live long enough to vote. I wrote about her here: http://ancestorsinaprons.com/2013/08/girl-bridge-hattie-stout/
    (I hope this is not a duplicate, but your sign in system confused me. I don’t like to use Twitter or Facebook to sign in, and it wanted to use my old wordpress.com account which I rarely use. Don’t know why I could just use my google i.d.)


  3. Thank you Vera for coming by and for leaving a comment! Our stories were about two interesting women and I enjoyed how much they dovetailed! So happy to meet you, and look forward to reading more of your blog posts! Helen


  4. Dear Vera, Sorry you had trouble with the sign in! I can’t imagine why you couldn’t use your other id’s! I will check the settings, thanks for the feedback! Helen


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