Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Judith Winsor Smith, 1821-1921
By Dominique Alpuche, student
Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Revisions by Lyle Nyberg, independent historian, Scituate, Mass.
Judith Winsor Smith was born Judith Winsor McLauthlin on November 26, 1821 in Marshfield, Massachusetts to Lewis McLauthlin and Polly (Hathaway) McLauthlin. Her parents were both descendants of Mayflower passengers and her father was an abolitionist. On November 25, 1841, she married Silvanus Smith at the First Church (Unitarian) in Duxbury, MA, the second church in New England. Silvanus was a shipbuilder who remained involved in the abolition and suffrage movements throughout his life. The couple had six children, Sidney, Frances, Zilpha, Drew, Erasmus, and Jennie. They lived in North Pembroke, MA until 1854 when they moved to East Boston, where Judith Winsor Smith would reside for nearly 65 years.
The home of the Smiths at 76 White Street was a short distance up the street from Silvanus Smith's shipyard. Silvanus Smith and Donald McKay were noted builders of clipper ships, and McKay lived next door to the Smiths. In addition, the Smiths spent summers in Scituate, MA, at first in the abandoned lighthouse keeper's cottage at Scituate harbor, and then in a cottage they built close to the lighthouse in 1896-1897.
Smith was a member of numerous women's groups and suffrage organizations. In 1875, she founded the Home Club of East Boston, the second women's club in Massachusetts, and served as its president for ten years. By 1881, she was a member of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. She was also a member of the Standing Committee of Theodore Parker's Church. She was president of the East Boston Women's Suffrage League, honorary vice president of the New England's Women's Club, and on the executive committees of the Massachusetts, New England, and American Women Suffrage Associations. In 1899, Judith presided over the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association and was elected the Massachusetts member of the executive committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In addition, she was a member of the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club and the Boston League of Women Voters, which in April 1921 made her an honorary vice president.
In addition to her membership in these associations, Smith attended rallies and gave speeches for the suffrage movement. She continued to do this even as she aged, attending the suffragist "Victory" parade in Boston on October 16, 1915, at the age of 93. She was also still giving speeches at this age, and was noted as "the world's oldest suffrage orator." On January 8, 1892, Smith gave a speech entitled "How to Make a Happy Home" in which she said, "it makes a home happier to . . . help on unpopular causes. The happiest homes I have known are those of reformers, who look beyond the centre of their own homes, and try to help others to better ones." This speech was later published in Woman's Journal, the leading women's rights periodical that had been founded in Boston in 1870. She was a frequent contributor to the journal.
Smith was active in the woman suffrage movement early on. Smith was friends with some of the most prominent suffragists in American history, including Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Julia Ward Howe, and Mary Livermore. She was also very close with Alice Stone Blackwell, the daughter of Stone and Blackwell, and communicated with her frequently.
Smith lived to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and to vote in the 1920 presidential election. In 1921, she met President Harding and told him that she had waited 75 years for the opportunity to cast her ballot for the first time. Judith Winsor Smith died on December 3, 1921, in the home she shared with her daughter Zilpha in Jamaica Plain, MA. She was survived by four children, 14 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. Two of her daughters, Zilpha and Frances, also worked for social causes throughout their lives.
Extensive archival collections of Judith Winsor Smith's papers and family photographs can be found at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Some of her papers are in the Woman's Rights Collection of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Family records and photographs are also in the Drew Archival Library of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. "A Hundred Years Young." Woman's Journal, vol. 6, no. 16, 31 Dec. 1921, p. 13.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. "98 Years Young." Woman's Journal, vol. 4, no. 21, 13 Dec. 1919, p. 558.
Boston Globe, multiple articles, including "A Pleasant Reception," February 13, 1881, 8; "She'll Vote Even if it Rains," August 29, 1920, p. 61; "Election of League of Women Voters," April 1, 1921, 18; "Women's Club Pays Tribute to Mrs Smith, 100 Nov 26," November 1, 1921, p. 14.
Christian Science Sentinel (Boston: Christian Science Publishing Society), February 2, 1899, p. 2.
Historic building inventory forms, submitted August 2019 for filing in Massachusetts Historical Commission's Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System (MACRIS), online: "Smith, Sylvanus House," 82 Lighthouse Road, Scituate, SCI.519; "Smith, Sylvanus House," 76 White Street, East Boston, BOS.14278.
Judith Winsor Smith Papers; boxes 1 and 8. Massachusetts Historical Society.
Judith Winsor Smith Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915; folder #1048. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Massachusetts Historical Society. "Judith Winsor Smith Papers: A Guide to the Collection." Collection Guides, Massachusetts Historical Society, www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0063.
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association. "Memberships and Donations." Woman's Journal, vol. 18, no. 10, 5 Mar. 1887, p. 77.
Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, available online (Scituate property).
Robinson, Harriet H., Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: A General, Political, Legal and Legislative History from 1774, to 1881 (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1881), 62 (Mrs. J. W. Smith one of three on a committee that arranged the two-day MWSA convention in 1881)
"Smith, Judith Winsor, 1821-1921. Papers of Judith Winsor Smith in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915: A Finding Aid," Harvard Library - HOLLIS for Archival Discovery, https://hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu/repositories/8/resources/8371.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Massachusetts Annual Meeting." Woman's Journal, vol. 26, no. 2, 12 Jan. 1895, pp. 12-13.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Massachusetts Annual Meeting: Special Notice." Woman's Journal, vol. 24, no. 47, 25 Nov. 1893, p. 372.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "New Hampshire Convention." Woman's Journal, vol. 18, no. 26, 25 June 1887, p. 205.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Protest from East Boston." Woman's Journal, vol. 25, no. 6, p. 44.
Smith McLauthlin Collection, Drew Archival Library of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, Duxbury, MA; partial finding aid, https://drewarchives.org/finding-aids/smith-mclauthlin-collection/.
Valuation Lists (tax assessor records of property valuations), on file in Scituate Town Archives.
Woman's Journal. Available online at "The Woman's journal and Woman's Journal and Suffrage News. Boston, 1870-1917," Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, https://listview.lib.harvard.edu/lists/drs-422585198 (click on "Full Text Search" upper right to search all issues).