Lillie Devereux Blake

Photo--The Schlessinger Library, Radcliffe College Photo--The Schlessinger Library, Radcliffe College

On this date in 1833, Lillie Devereux Blake, nee Elizabeth Johnson Devereux, was born into a wealthy family in Raleigh, North Carolina. The famous beauty came into money as a young woman, and married a handsome attorney in 1855, who freely spent her fortune before shooting himself in 1858. Lillie, as the young mother of two daughters, had to turn her "scribbling" into a way to support her family with her pen. In 1861, then living in New York City, she became a war correspondent. By 1882, 500 of her stories, articles, speeches and lectures, plus five novels, had been published. She earned about $3,600 over a lifetime of writing. At 35, she turned her energies almost exclusively toward working for women's rights. Protesting Columbia University's exclusion of women on behalf of her daughters, she could not budge the opposition of Dr. Morgan Dix, rector of Trinity Chapel. In 1883, she encountered her theological foe again, when he embarked on an antisuffrage lecture series. Lillie responded immediately by scheduling her own nationally-noted lectures, including one on "Woman in Paganism and Christianity." Rev. Dix , she said, was "a theological Rip Van Winkle, who has slept, not 20 but 200 years." She campaigned for the rights of women prisoners ("Is it a crime to be a woman?"), and achieved many reforms. A good friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she served on The Woman's Bible revising committee. For 11 years, she ran the successful New York State Suffrage Association, defeating an antisuffrage governor, winning the right to vote for rural women at elections of school trustees, and getting women admitted as census-takers. D. 1913.

“Every denial of education, every refusal of advantages to women, may be traced to this dogma [of original sin], which first began to spread its baleful influence with the rise of the power of the priesthood and the corruption of the early Church.”

—Lillie Devereux Blake, Woman's Place To-Day, 1883. For more about Lillie Devereux Blake, see Women Without Superstition

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor; Photo printed with permission in Women Without Superstition

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