Blake, Lillie Devereux (1833–1913)

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Blake, Lillie Devereux (1833–1913)

American suffragist, reformer, and writer. Born Elizabeth Johnson Devereux in Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 12, 1833; died in Englewood, New Jersey, on December 30, 1913; daughter of George P. (a wealthy southerner of Irish descent) and Sarah Elizabeth (Johnson) Devereux (of New York and New England families); educated at private schools in New Haven, Connecticut; married Frank G. Quay Umsted (a Philadelphia lawyer), in June 1855 (died, May 1859); married Grenfill Blake (a New York merchant), in 1866 (died 1896); children: (first marriage) two.

When her husband Frank Umsted died of an apparent suicide in May 1859, leaving her with little money and two small children to support, Lillie Devereux turned her attention to writing and completed several successful novels. In 1866, she married Grenfill Blake, a New York merchant.

Aligned with the women's suffrage movement, Lillie Blake delivered many addresses on the subject throughout the country. She also spoke on education and was an active promoter in the founding of Barnard College. As president of the New York State Woman's Suffrage Association from 1879–90, she was largely instrumental in securing a law permitting woman's suffrage in school elections, a law providing for matrons in police stations (passed in 1891), and a law requiring storekeepers to provide seats for saleswomen. Blake's writings include Southwold (1859), Rockford (1863), Fettered for Life, or Lord and Master (1874), and A Daring Experiment (1892). In 1883, she delivered a series of lectures in reply to the Lenten discourses on "the calling of a Christian Woman" by Reverend Morgan Dix, D.D.; these attracted much attention and were published under the title Woman's Place Today. When Blake failed in an attempt to succeed Susan B. Anthony as president of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1900, losing to Carrie Chapman Catt , she formed her own National Legislative League. Illness forced her to withdraw from activism in 1905.