Woman of the Century/Lillie Devereux Blake
BLAKE, Mrs. Lillie Devereux, woman suffragist and reformer, born in Raleigh, N. C., 12th August, 1835. Her father was George Pollok Devereux, and her mother was Sarah Elizabeth Johnson. Mr. Devereux was a wealthy southern eentleman, of Irish descent on his father's side. His mother, Frances Pollok, was a descendant of Sir Thomas Pollok, one of the early governors of North Carolina under the Lords Proprietaries. Mrs. Devereux was the daughter of Judge Samuel William Johnson, of Stratford, Conn., and a granddaughter of the Hon. William Samuel Johnson, member of the Stamp Act Congress, of the Fourth and Fifth Continental Congresses and of the Federal Convention, Senator from Connecticut, and president of Columbia Col- lege, his father, the Rev. Samuel Johnson, D. D., having been the founder and first president of that university, when it was called King's College. Both Mr. and Mrs. Devereux were descended from the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, D. D. Mr. Devereux died in 1837, and his widow removed to New Haven, Conn., where she was widely known for the gener- ous hospitality which shedispensed from her beauti- ful home, " Maple Cottage." Lillie received every advantage of education, taking the Yale College course from tutors at home. She grew up to be a beautiful and brilliant girl and was an acknowledged LILLIE DEVEREUX BLAKE. belle until she was married, in 1855, to Frank G. Q. Umsted, a young lawyer of Philadelphia. With him she made her home in St. Louis, Mo., and New York City until 1859, when she was left a widow with two children. She had already begun to write for the press, one of her first stories, " A Lonely House," having appeared in the "Atlantic Monthly." She had also published "Southwold," a novel, which achieved a decided success. The handsome fortune she had inherited was largely impaired, and the young widow began to work in real earnest, writing stories, sketches and letters for several leading periodicals. She made her home most of the time w ith her mother in Stratford, Conn. but spent some winters in Washington and New York. In 1862 she published a second novel, called " Rockford." and subsequently wrote several romances In 1866 she was married toGrinlill Blake, a young merchant of New York, and since that time has made her home in that city. In 1869 she became actively interested in the woman suffrage movement and devoted herself with all her energies to pushing the reform, arranging conventions, getting up public meetings, writing articles and occasionally making lecture tours. A woman of strong affections and marked domestic tastes, she has not allowed her public work to interfere with her home duties, and her speaking outside of New York City has been almost wholly done in the summer, when her family was naturally scattered. In 1872 she published a novel called "Fettered for Life," designed to show the many disadvantages under which women labor. In 1873 she made an application for the opening of Columbia College to young women as well as young men, presenting a class of girl students qualified to enter the university. The agitation then begun has since led to the establishment of Barnard College. In 1879 she was unanimously elected president of the New- York State Woman Suffrage Association, an office which she held for eleven years. During that period she made a tour of the State every summer, arranged conventions, and each year conducted a legislative campaign, many times addressing committees of the senate and assembly. In 1880 the school suffrage law was passed, largely through her efforts, and in each year woman suffrage bills were introduced and pushed to a vote in one or both of the branches of the legislature. In 1883 the Rev. Morgan Dix, D. D., delivered a series of Lenten discourses on " Woman," presenting a most conservative view of her duties. Mrs. Blake replied to each lecture in an able address, advocating more advanced ideas. Her lectures were printed under the title of "Woman's Place To-day" (New York), and have had a large sale. Among the reforms in which she has been actively interested has been that of securing matrons to take charge of women detained in police stations. As early as 1871 she spoke and wrote on the subject, and through her labors, in 1881 and 1882, bills were passed by the assembly, failing to become laws, however, l>ecause of the opposition of the police department in New York City. She continued to agitate the subject, public sentiment was finally aroused, and in 1891 a law was passed enforcing this much-needed reform. The employment of women as census takers was first urged in 1880 by Mrs. Blake. The bills giving seats to saleswomen, ordering the presence of a woman physician in every insane asylum where women are detained, and many other beneficent measures were presented or aided by her. In 1886 Mrs. Blake was elected president of the New York City Woman Suffrage League. an office which she still holds. She has attended conventions and made speeches in most of the States and Territories and has addressed committees of both houses of Congress and of the New York and Connecticut legislatures. She still continues her literary labors. She is a graceful and logical writer, a witty and eloquent speaker and a charming hostess, her weekly receptions through the season in New York having been for many years among the attractions of literary and reform circles.