Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Craig

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Craig

By William Smith, undergraduate, University of California, Berkeley

Elizabeth Craig was an accomplished leader and lecturer in suffragist organizations. These talents lead her from America's South to the Pacific Northwest. Before she moved to Oregon, Craig worked as a president of Texas Equal Rights Association. The organization, founded in 1893 out of the women's temperance movement in the state, worked to lobby for equal voting rights for women on a county by county basis. A key part of their strategy was to win over public opinion, stressing the need for equal enfranchisement for a fair society. Unfortunately, the organization became defunct by 1896, a victim of organizational politics and lack of funding. Afterwards, Craig was on a trip to Oregon where she was "captivated by the climate" and decided to move to Portland for good.

After relocating to the Pacific Northwest, the suffragist took up the role of corresponding secretary for the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association as of 1906. There she was charged with maintaining and recording the organization's communications with other branches of the movement and local government. Despite her and others' efforts, campaigns for suffrage in 1908 and 1910 were very unsuccessful.

During her time the Oregon Association, under the leadership of president Abigail Duniway, relied heavily on the "still hunt" method of campaign. This approach entailed private meetings and negotiations with influential business leaders and legislators to try and pass state suffrage legislation. This approach was often criticized for not focusing a campaign which was ostensibly founded on expanding enfranchisement on the will over the voters, but instead on the sway of the elites. However, proponents of the method, including the president of OESA, favored the method as it did not draw the attention or mobilization of powerful anti-suffrage campaigns.

As much as she was an integral part of the administration of OESA, Elizabeth Craig was also respected for her intellect and knowledge of the suffrage movement. To this end, she gave informative talks to the public about the importance of women's suffrage, including "Women in the Home and Nation." Such public talks were instrumental in gaining broader awareness and support for the movement both locally and nationally. Craig did not only work to spread the message of suffrage, but also to keep the bonds of the organization strong.

In 1906, she delivered an address to fellow members of OESA. In her speech, Craig championed unity in the organization which was increasingly polarized by strategy. She stressed that the organization should behave along the lines of a political party: with a clear platform and established strategy.

After her time in Oregon she moved to Los Angeles, it is unknown if she continued her suffrage activism or settled into retirement. She left a legacy of mobile activism, bringing what she learned from Texas partisan politics to work for a unified, approachable suffrage movement in Oregon. While her work alone did not achieve voting rights, the spirit of unity she and others worked to promote was instrumental in the passage of the 19th amendment.

Sources:

DeLuzio, Crista, ed. Women's Rights: People and Perspectives: People and Perspectives. ABC-CLIO, 2009.

"Local Lore." The Corvallis Times (Corvallis), January 12, 1906.

McArthur, Judith N. "Texas Equal Rights Association," accessed online April 21, 2017 at https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vit02.

Harper, Ida Husted. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6. Salem (N.H.): Ayer Company, 1922.

"Suffrage Official Page." Western Woman, July 11, 1907.

"Suffrage Work in Oregon." The Women's Tribune (Portland), August 26, 1905.

back to top