Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Louise Brevard Alexander, 1887-1978
By Adam Tomasi, student, Wake Forest University
Teacher, Lawyer, chair of NC League of Women Voters
Louise Brevard Alexander was born in Hickory, North Carolina in 1887. She attended Presbyterian College in Charlotte, NC, graduating in 1907. After receiving a graduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Alexander became a high school teacher in Greensboro, NC. After years of teaching history, civics, and economics, Alexander went on to earn her law degree at UNC Chapel Hill and was admitted to the state bar in 1920. She became one of the first women lawyers in Greensboro as well as an early juvenile court judge and the first woman police officer in North Carolina. She also taught at the Woman's College, known today as UNC Greensboro.
Alexander was involved in the movement for women's suffrage through the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Although the WCTU was not strictly a suffrage organization, the Union lobbied for suffrage to allow women to vote on liquor laws. In The Independent, a newspaper out of Elizabeth City, NC, the WCTU spoke of how its members celebrated the twin victories of Prohibition and suffrage. Alexander, as a practicing attorney, spoke at the WCTU's 1920 convention. In 1922, North Carolina's chapter of the League of Women Voters elected Alexander to be its chair, succeeding Gertrude Well. The High Point Enterprise spoke of how the League's North Carolina chapter fought for maintaining suffrage, establishing a state reformatory for women, and carrying out the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Act, a federal law that provided funds for maternity and childcare. From 1923 to 1935, Alexander continued her legal work as a clerk for the municipal court in Greensboro. Alexander then taught at the Woman's College from 1935 until 1957, when she retired. For her contributions to women's education, she received the O. Max Gardner award given to the faculty member who had a lasting, positive impact on students and humanity writ large.
Louise Alexander died at the age of 91, in 1978, due to natural causes. She is remembered for her activism in support of the suffrage movement in a state that was hostile to its cause. Opposition in North Carolina was strong, even among women, due to both racist fears of black women voting as well as a concern for states' rights. In the face of this opposition, Louise Alexander urged an audience in Greensboro to "Raise fewer dahlias and a lot more hell." Alexander, in all of her capacities as an activist, lawyer, judge, and professor, embodied this undying, hell-raising spirit.
"Charlotte Girl Is First Policewoman In State." The Charlotte News (December 29th, 1922), 9. Accessed November 17th, 2016.
"Miss Louise Alexander Elected to Lead State Women's Voter League." The High Point Enterprise (High Point, NC). 17 February 1922, 3;
"Pioneer woman lawyer dies," Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC). 31 May 1978, 3-B. Accessed September 14th, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19780531&id=Ch1OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=PBMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5868,6094382&hl=en;
"Remembering the City's First Female Attorney Featured in Book." Greensboro News Record . 3 October 2004;
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, "Louise Brevard Alexander: Raising ‘Fewer Dahlias and A Lot More Hell', Spartan Stories, 25 July 2016. http://uncghistory.blogspot.com/2016/07/louise-brevard-alexander-raising-fewer.html;
"Winners of the O. Max Gardner Award, 1949-2014." Provost of UNC. n.d. http://provost.uncc.edu/sites/provost.uncc.edu/files/media/O-Max-Gardner-Award-Recipients-2014.pdf;
"O. Max Gardner Award." Office of the Provost, UNC. n.d. http://provost.uncc.edu/awards/o-max-gardner-award;
"W.C.T.U. Women Strong for Cox," The Independent (Elizabeth City, NC). 29 October 1920, 1, 7. Accessed September 14th, 2016;
Ann Alexander, The News & Record , Greensboro. 22 September 1990. Accessed September 14th, 2016. http://www.greensboro.com/changing-their-role-from-the-kitchen-to-the-boardroom-piedmont/article_53d0fbfd-ad90-5f68-a5a3-abec137549b3.html
Emily Herring Wilson "Gertrude Weil: Forever Young." North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 2, eds. Michele Gillespie and Sally McMillen (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015), 21.