Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lois (Lulu) Gertrude Cotten Porter, 1865-1939
By Ann Engar, Professor, Honors College and LEAP Program, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
Treasurer of NAWSA affiliate, Phoenix, AZ; philanthropist; businesswoman
Lois (Lulu) Gertrude Cotten Porter was born March 7, 1865, in Colorado to Madison Cotten and Artilina Church Cotten. At the age of fifteen, she married the Honorable Deforest Porter in Maricopa, Arizona. A widower with a young son and a survivor of the Battle of Gettysburg, Deforest was 26 years her senior. At the time, he was an Associate Justice of the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court. Two years after their marriage, he resigned because of heart problems and returned to the practice of law. Not slowing down for long, he was elected mayor of Phoenix in 1883, representative of Maricopa County in the Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1885, and then mayor again in 1887. He died of erysipelas in 1889, leaving Lulu a widow at age 23 with a six-year-old daughter Marian.
Deforest had acquired extensive property in downtown Phoenix and mines throughout central Arizona. With her stepson, Lulu inherited this property and mines from her father and became a substantial businesswoman. Her name often appeared in the social pages of the Phoenix newspaper. In 1888, she founded a pioneer cemetery with her father as the first burial. In 1890, she received the top city tax assessment of $62,450 (the next highest tax payer was Goldman & Co. at $49,825). One example of her business dealings was the 1909 purchase of the Center Street Block with a three-story brick building that included Phoenix's first opera house. Lulu added this property to her lodging house next door to the theater and a delivery service, saloon, and cigar store in the same block.
Lulu joined a number of charitable and service organizations, including the Ladies Aid Society of the Baptist Church, of which she became secretary in 1899. In 1900, she was named treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association affiliate in the Arizona territory. The organization was reformed at a convention in 1902; Lulu was no longer treasurer. She also belonged to the Udahli club, in which women undertook relief projects and helped in the war effort in World War I.
Beginning in the 1890's, Lulu and her daughter Marian began taking up summer residence in southern California. She bought property at Playa del Rey in 1905 and lived variously in Los Angeles, San Diego, and La Jolla with her daughter and her daughter's husband, Francis M. Grace, and two grandchildren. As California granted women the right to vote in 1911, Lulu first registered to vote there in 1914 and voted regularly for the rest of her life. She and her daughter volunteered for the American Red Cross and financially helped supported the Phoenix branch of that organization.
Lulu visited Phoenix for extended periods every year and passed away in Maricopa County, Arizona, December 21, 1939.
Arizona Death Records, 1887-1966.
Arizona Republican, Oct. 15, 1890; Nov. 25, 1893; Jan. 31, 1896; July 3, 1896; Feb. 2, 1899; Feb. 10, 1899; Oct. 10, 1899; July 25, 1907; March 14, 1909; June 8, 1913; July 17, 1913; Dec. 31, 1917.
Arizona Select Marriages, 1888-1908
California Voter Registration, 1900-1968.
Goff, John S. Arizona Territorial Officials: The Supreme Court Justices, 1863-1912. vol.1, Black Mountain Press, 1968.
Los Angeles Herald, 13 June 1907.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady et al. History of Woman Suffrage. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1922. [LINK to Arizona state report]
U.S. Census 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.