Lillie Devereux Blake

On this date in 1833, Lillie Devereux Blake, née 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. Blake, 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, often under the pen name Tiger Lily.

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 Church in New York City. In 1883 she encountered her theological foe again when he embarked on an anti-suffrage lecture series. Blake responded immediately by scheduling her own lectures, including one on “Woman in Paganism and Christianity.” 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 anti-suffrage governor, winning the right to vote for rural women at elections of school trustees and getting women accepted as census takers. (D. 1913)

Freedom From Religion Foundation