About Emma Devoe (Smith)
Emma Smith DeVoe (1848-1927) was a Republican Party activist and leading suffragette in the early twentieth century, changing the face of politics for both women and men alike. She was known as "the Mother of Women's Suffrage".
Emma Smith DeVoe was born on August 22, 1848, In Roseville Illinois. As a child she saw a speech made by Susan B. Anthony, which inspired her to become a suffragette when she was only eight years old. In 1880 she married John Henry DeVoe, who supported her throughout her life and aided her in her campaigns, which, in addition to women's suffrage, included reform, statehood, and temperance. Emma become an excellent public speaker over time after studying under Susan B. Anthony herself.
Due to her organizational skills and well-dressed appearance, in 1895 DeVoe was chosen to organize an official suffrage group in the state of Idaho. Her speeches centered around the idea that there were in fact peaceful solutions to international conflict and by winning the right to vote women would be able to help in this situation by passively bringing about changes. Women in Idaho received the right to vote in 1896 thanks to her kind but effective speechmaking skills. She eventually gave speeches and organized new suffrage groups in 28 states and territories. DeVoe was good at building coalitions with labor, men’s groups, and the Grange Associations. She ran polls to determine where voters stood on the issue of suffrage. She was responsible for implementing many high-profile strategies such as publishing cookbooks, organizing women’s days, and blanketing neighborhoods with posters. She would often begin her speeches with the statement, "There is nothing in the Constitution of the United States that should prevent women the right of franchise."
The DeVoes moved to Tacoma, Washington in 1905, and a year later Emma Smith Devoe was made president of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association, taking over the revival of the movement. At this point she was extremely politically confident, and added new tactics such as penny posters, rallies, parades, publicity stunts, and different speeches to cater to the Washington campaign's needs, all while maintaining a very polite and womanly approach. In addition she published a cookbook to prove to those who did not support her views that women would not be abandoning their domestic role as the caretaker of the home. These methods and her stance led to women winning the right to vote by a 64% majority and Washington state became the fifth suffrage state in the country in 1910.
In 1911, DeVoe became a founder of the nonpartisan National Council of Women Voters (NCWV), which was created in order to assist states with no suffrage movements and to help educate women who had earned the right to vote about politics to help further their vote. Forging connections with both Republicans and Democrats, DeVoe eventually was able to convince the Washington legislature to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.
Later Years and Death
DeVoe chose to become a very politically active Republican after the demanding years of working for the suffrage movement passed. At the Republican State convention in 1920 she was the only woman to be chosen as a presidential elector. She later began writing a Republican column from the women's point of view for the Tacoma News Tribune, and was eventually made vice chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. She was one of the first people to propose the idea of voting based on issues rather than for a specific party.
On September 3, 1927, Emma Smith DeVoe died aged 79. She was elected to the National Women's Hall of Fame in the year 2000.