Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ida de Voist, 1861-1948
By Leslie Ordal, University of Toronto
Ida de Voist (nee Ida Eugenia Le Due; later Ida Gawthrop) was born in Macomb County, Michigan, in approximately 1861. She was the oldest of seven children born to Antoine le Due, a Canadian immigrant and mine owner, and Ida Korten, formerly of Essen, Germany. De Voist graduated from the University of Michigan. At the age of 29 she married Peter L. de Voist, a partner in her father's copper mining business. The couple lived in Duluth, Minnesota; Peter passed away suddenly in 1923. In 1937, Ida would marry again at the age of 75 to then 87-year-old Joseph Gawthrop of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The Minnesota State Death Index lists her date of death as September 8, 1948.
De Voist's activities in the suffrage movement were noted in Duluth and other Minnesota newspapers throughout the 1910s and 20s. Her first work in suffrage activities in Minnesota commenced upon her arrival in Duluth in 1905, taking on the role of vice president of the Minnesota Woman's Suffrage association. She was a frequently invited speaker among other local groups, on topics such as "The Need of Authority for Women in Social Service" (at a local "Legislative Day" in 1912) and "The Privilege of Middle Age" (to the Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs). In 1913 she was elected president of the Minnesota Woman's Suffrage association, succeeding Mrs. A. T. Hall. She became president of her local chapter of the Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs in 1915, with a goal of statewide suffrage for women that year. This did not come to pass, but when women attained the right to vote in 1919, de Voist founded a Minnesota branch of the newly formed League of Women Voters. In 1923, de Voist once again ran for president of the Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs. She continued to be involved in the Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs as late as 1933, when she would deliver an address to the Duluth chapter.
De Voist firmly believed in the role of women to create economic, political, and social change. She an active campaigner on behalf of General Leonard Wood, the Republican candidate for US president in 1920, serving as chair of the Minnesota women's committee for the Wood campaign and forming headquarters in St. Paul. In 1924, she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention. De Voist was also passionate about improving working conditions in industry and tackling the problem of child labour. In 1897, before she resided in Minnesota, de Voist lived in Hart, Michigan, and addressed the Michigan State Teachers' Association with a proposal for Women's Clubs to assist teachers in improving children's education. In 1916, she organized a "Child Labour Sunday" at local churches, encouraging them to offer a prayer or sermon on behalf of child workers.
In addition to her political and social work, de Voist was a member of the Lester Park literary society, the Duluth Art Association, and also took an interest in floriculture, publishing a short piece for the Michigan State Farmers' Institute on the challenges and personal benefits (including stimulating the intellect) of growing roses.
De Voist, Ida. "Floriculture." In Michigan State Farmers' Institute. (Winter 1895-6). Agricultural College, Michigan: State Board of Agriculture.
"Duluth Woman to Read Paper." (15 February 1912). The Duluth News Tribune, p. 4.
"Duluth Woman is Wood Chairman." (21 Mar 1920). Star Tribune, p. 11.
"Mrs. Rounds Declines to Be Candidate for Reelection." (23 Sep 1923). Star Tribune, p. 54.
"Newlyweds, 87 and 75, Begin Housekeeping." (10 Jun 1937). Mount Carmel Item, p. 4.
State of Minnesota. Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002. Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Department of Health.