Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Judith Winsor Smith, 1821-1921
By Dominique Alpuche, student
Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Judith Winsor Smith was born Judith Winsor McLauthlin on November 26, 1821 in Marsfield, 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.
Smith was a member of numerous women's groups and suffragist organizations,
including the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club and the Boston League of Women Voters. She was the 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 1875, she founded the Home Club of East Boston, the second women's club in Massachusetts, and served as its president for ten years. She was also a member of the Standing Committee of Theodore Parker's Church.
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 a parade on October 11, 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, a women's rights periodical that had been founded in Boston in 1870. Writing by Smith was published in this journal on numerous occasions.
Part of the movement from its early years until the ratification of the 19th Amendment, 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 Stone and Blackwell's daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, with whom she communicated frequently. She also corresponded with other suffragists and family members, many of whom called her "Judy."
After seeing the ratification of the 19th Amendment and voting in her first election, 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.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. "A Hundred Years Young." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 6, no. 16, 31 Dec. 1921, p. 13.
Blackwell, Alice Stone. "98 Years Young." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 4, no. 21, 13 Dec. 1919, p. 558.
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, digital ed., vol. 18, no. 10, 5 Mar. 1887, p. 77.
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. "Smith, Judith Winsor, 1821-1921. Papers of Judith Winsor Smith in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1915: A Finding Aid." OASIS, Harvard University Library, oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~sch01038.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Massachusetts Annual Meeting." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 26, no. 2, 12 Jan. 1895, pp. 12-13.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Massachusetts Annual Meeting: Special Notice." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 24, no. 47, 25 Nov. 1893, p. 372.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "New Hampshire Convention." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 18, no. 26, 25 June 1887, p. 205.
Smith, Judith Winsor. "Protest from East Boston." Woman's Journal, PDF ed., vol. 25, no. 6, p. 44.