Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Anna Forbes Liddell, 1891-1979
By Brad Jeter, student, Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, North Carolina
Co-Founder, North Carolina Equal Suffrage League; Philosopher
Anna Forbes Liddell was born December 6, 1891, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was born to Walter Scott Liddell, who owned a manufacturing company, and Helen Sherman Ogden Liddell. Before starting her formal higher education, Liddell wrote for various local newspapers and magazines, most prominently the Charlotte Observer. While writing she also studied at Queens College in Charlotte before going on to complete one semester at Columbia University in New York. After returning to North Carolina, Liddell and Susanne Bynum organized the North Carolina Equal Suffrage League (NCESL). The organization served as a grassroots local force in the fight for voting rights. Liddell continued to write feminist articles before enrolling in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with a degree in English. She continued her education at Cornell University, where she received a Master of Arts, and then went on to become the first woman to earn a doctorate in philosophy from the University of North Carolina.
Liddell's time organizing the North Carolina Equal Suffrage League aimed to bring the issue of suffrage to the forefront. She served as the editor of a special edition of The Charlotte Observer that focused on the issue of woman's suffrage. The NCESL formed multiple chapters across the state to lobby lawmakers and mobilize activists.
After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Liddell distinguished herself as an academic in philosophy at a time when men dominated academia. This feat was all the more amazing given her location in the South. She taught at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and then found a home at Florida State University in 1926 where she spent the rest of her career teaching philosophy. Philosophers around the world held her in high regard: in 1934, she became the first American woman to receive recognition at the International Congress of Philosophy held in Prague. At Florida State, she chaired the Department of Philosophy & Religion from 1932 to 1951 while simultaneously serving as the president of the Southern Society of Philosophy and Psychology. She retired in 1962 and passed away August 30, 1979.
Liddell fought for woman's rights her entire life. In 1973 at age 81, Liddell testified before the Florida House of Representative urging them to vote yes on the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. According to a report from the Associated Press after an onlooker criticized her testimony, Liddell responded "I'm right. I've been right from the very beginning, and I certainly would know because I've been around from the very beginning."
Associated Press, "Woman, 81, Fights For Rights," The Indiana Gazette, April 11, 1973; "Notes and News," The Journal of Philosophy 35.8 (1938): 224; "Front Matter," The Philosophical Review 55.3 (1946); Wilse B. Webb, "Fiftieth Annual Meeting of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology," The American Journal of Psychology 71.4 (1958): 793-94; North Carolina Learns, "4.5 The North Carolina Equal Suffrage League," accessed at Learnnc.org; "Anna Forbes Liddell in the Florida House of Representatives," Florida Memory, State Library and Archives of Florida, accessed online 15 Sept. 2016; Barbara Elizabeth Lambert, "Liddell, Anna Forbes," NCpedia Home Page. Web. 15 Sept. 2016; James E. Tull, "Ellis Wing Hollon, 1932-1979," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association (1980): 857-58. Web. 15 Sept. 2016; "Southern Society Elects Dr. Liddell New President," Florida State View and Florida Flambeau, January 8, 1932, 1. Web. 15 Sept. 2016; David Gold and Catherine Hobbs, Educating the New Southern Woman: Speech, Writing, and Race at the Public Women's Colleges, 1884-1945, 5-7, 54; William S. Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography: L-O (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979), 64; Laura Micheletti Puaca, Pioneer to Powerhouse: The History of Graduate Education at Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Robert Beard, "Anna Forbes Liddell, 1891-1979," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 53.6 (1980): 858-59.