Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Elizabeth C. Kilton Lord, 1840-1915
By Kristy Conrad, independent researcher
Elizabeth Crawford Kilton Lord was born on May 23, 1840, to parents Simeon Kilton and Nancy Crawford, in Louisville, New York. "Libbie" was the baby of the family; her older siblings included Simon Jr. (born 1818), Nancy (born 1820), Mary Emeline (born 1828), and Phebe Cornell (born 1830). Due to the wide disparity in the children's ages, only Mary, Phebe, and Elizabeth were still living at home in 1847 when their father died of natural causes, leaving behind some property upon which the family continued to live and upon which they accepted boarders to make ends meet.
Over the next decade, Mary and Phebe both married, leaving Elizabeth at home alone with her mother. When in 1862, at the age of 22, Elizabeth entered into a marriage agreement with Bela Brockway Lord, Jr. (born in 1840 in Sinclairville, New York), she did so with the express condition that they remain with her mother, now an invalid, for the remainder of her life—which they did. According to a later biographical sketch of Bela and Elizabeth Lord, their friends and neighbors respected them greatly for this sacrifice: "[they] are still remembered by their acquaintances there as deserving their later successes for their devotion to their aged and helpless relative." It was in Louisville in 1863 that Elizabeth and Bela welcomed their first and only child, a son named Clarence Jefferson ("C.J.") Lord.
In 1873, Elizabeth's mother died at the age of 76, and Bela and Elizabeth were at liberty to live where they chose. A year later, Bela's own father died, and shortly thereafter, to appease his mother's wish, Bela and Elizabeth returned to his hometown of Sinclairville, in Chautauqua County, New York, and took over the family farm. In 1880, Bela began importing Holstein cattle, "which, from the first, proved a very successful venture." A few years later, he began importing and breeding French Coach and Perdieron horses. Within a short time, the Lords' farm was thriving. "Chautauqua County is known far and near for the excellence of its dairy products, and the 'Sinclairville Stock Farm,' the home of B. B. Lord, has added much to its reputation, both for dairy goods, large milk and butter records, and fine stock."
Both Bela and Elizabeth became active in the Grange Movement (or the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, as it was later known), a fraternal organization founded in 1867 "which encouraged families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture." The Grange Movement was unusual for its era because women were allowed, and even encouraged, to participate. Through her work with the Grange, which began around 1876, Elizabeth became known as "a woman of marked ability…an intelligent parliamentarian with a fund of practical knowledge of important subjects and ready tact, which intuitively reads human character aright." Like other fraternal organizations, the Grange included a number of office positions at the county, state, and national levels, as well as special rituals and ceremonies to acknowledge members' levels of achievement (with seven levels or degrees altogether). Elizabeth "attained an eminence in the Grange of the State of New York, which has been reached by no other of her sex." She served as an officer of the State Grange for two years (sixth degree), served as a member of the Executive Committee of the County Grange (fifth degree), and was selected Master of Chautauqua County Pomona Grange (fifth degree) in 1890, "the first woman to achieve that distinction."
Meanwhile, Elizabeth's son C.J. was educated at Eastman's Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1884, at the age of 21, C.J. joined his father in the family business at the Sinclairville Stock Farm. Four years later, however, now married and looking to begin his own life, C.J. moved to Olympia, Washington, and founded Capital National Bank, of which he remained president for the remainder of his life—a position which brought him a great deal of wealth and power. He even served as mayor of Olympia from 1902-1903 and used his political influence to keep Olympia as the state capital and political seat.
When Bela died in 1904, Elizabeth gave up the Sinclairville Stock Farm and the home she had known for so many years and moved across the country to join her son in Olympia. She retained her active participation in the Grange Movement by joining the Washington State chapter. She also extended her social activism to include participation in the suffrage movement then brewing in her new state. Washington, which as a territory had given women the right to vote in 1883 only to revoke it six years later, was considered a key battleground by national suffragists in their fight to procure a women's suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1909, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convened in Seattle. On June 30, the Washington Equal Suffrage Association hosted a reception at Seattle's Hotel Lincoln to welcome the visiting officers and delegates, who included such luminaries as NAWSA's national president Reverend Anna Howard Shaw, well-known suffragist Alice Stone Blackwell, and Lucy Anthony, niece of Susan B. Anthony. Among the "local woman of prominence" who welcomed them was Elizabeth Lord, who made a speech as a representative of the Grange Movement: "From the first of it, women came into our organization on a perfect equality, and for forty years the Grange has carried on an education for woman suffrage. It was the proudest moment of my life when I got a resolution for it through the New York State Grange. Here in Washington it has increased three-fold in five years and always passes a resolution in favor of suffrage for women."
Elizabeth was also present at other important Washington suffrage meetings in 1909, as stakeholders worked to convince the state legislature to pass a measure that would put a women's suffrage amendment on the ballot the following year. No doubt Elizabeth was a significant player in such strategies, given her son's role as a major political player in the state capital and her own work mobilizing the Grange to fight on behalf of women's suffrage. Later, after the measure was successfully passed by the legislature and the amendment scheduled for the 1910 statewide ballot, the Washington Equal Suffrage Association met to assess its chances; Elizabeth reported to association president Emma Smith DeVoe that the Grange and its members "could be depended on for an affirmative vote." On November 8, 1910, the amendment to allow Washington women the right to vote was passed by a majority of 22,623—nearly two to one. Its resounding success energized the national suffrage movement and helped pave the way for the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Sadly, Elizabeth Lord did not live to see women gain the right to vote nationally. She died in Olympia in 1915 at the age of 75. Upon her death, her son C.J. took her back to Sinclairville, New York, to be buried alongside her husband.
1840 United States Federal Census, Louisville, St. Lawrence, New York. Ancestry.com. Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com, 2009.
1911 Olympia City Directory, page 90. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com , 2011.
Becker, Paula. "Prominent Seattle women participate in a reception for noted suffragists at Seattle's Hotel Lincoln on June 30, 1909." 2 May 2008. HistoryLink. Web. 1 Dec. 2017.
Edson, Obed, and Dilley, Butler F. Biographical cyclopedia of Chautauqua County, New York. Philadelphia: John F. Gresham, 1891. Ancestry.com. Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, vol. 6 (New York: Fowler & Wells, 1922), page 674 (note), ed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper. [LINK]
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Inventory Report for C.J. & Elizabeth Lord House, page 2. PDF. Olympia Historical Society. Web. 1 Dec. 2017.
"National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 4 October 2017. Web. 1 Dec. 2017.
"Public Member Trees," database, Ancestry.com, accessed 1 Dec. 2017. "J.D. Pettinger /A.B.I. Hicks Family Tree" family tree by dlgould94, profile for Elizabeth Crawford Kilton (1840-1915, d. Olympia, Washington).
"Public Member Trees," database, Ancestry.com, accessed 1 Dec. 2017. "J.D. Pettinger /A.B.I. Hicks Family Tree" family tree by dlgould94, profile for Nancy Crawford (1797-1873, d. Louisville, New York).
Stevenson, Shanna. "The Fight for Washington Women's Suffrage: A Brief History," page 3. PDF. Washington State Historical Society. Web. 1 Dec. 2017.