Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biography of Lucille Agniel Calmes, 1886-1963
By Dominique Bateman and Miranda Pikaart, Undergraduates, Meredith College
Lucille (also Lucile or Lucia) Agniel Calmes (b. May 29, 1886) was one of six children born to George (b. 1849) and Ada Lescher Agniel (b. 1859) in Indiana. George Agniel, a farmer, died in 1893, leaving Ada Lescher Agniel to raise Lucille and her five siblings - sisters Rosamond, Marguerite, and Mary, and brothers George and Vivian - on her own. All of the Agniel children attended school.
By 1915, Lucille Agniel was living in Washington, D.C., where she married William Burgess Calmes, a clerk at a tire store, at the age of 29. Her husband registered for the draft in 1917 and claimed an exemption due to his wife and child, most likely their daughter Patricia. Calmes had a busy social life in D.C., her name appearing in the society pages of the local newspapers as she hosted members of her sewing and fancywork clubs.
Calmes was one of the National Woman's Party activists who were at once vilified and applauded for protesting in front of the White House during WWI. She was arrested after participating in the watchfire demonstration on January 13, 1919. In the "Watchfires of Freedom" protests, suffragists burned President Woodrow Wilson's WWI speeches about democracy, deemed hypocritical in light of Wilson's earlier refusal to support the federal amendment granting women the right to vote, in cauldrons in front of the White House. Calmes and the others arrested that day spent five days in jail.
Calmes was awarded the "Jailed for Freedom" pin, crafted in silver and fashioned as a prison door with a heart-shaped lock, after her arrest. Alice Paul created the pin specifically to honor those NWP pickets who were arrested. Both Alice Paul's and Lucille Calmes's pins are in the collection of the Smithsonian.
(Photo Courtesy of The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. Source: http://www.langantiques.com/university/Suffragist_Jewelry)
After four years of marriage, and only months after her arrest, Calmes filed for divorce in June 1919. Her husband had been ejected from a hotel where he registered with another woman he claimed to be his wife. She sued for absolute divorce and custody of her daughter. As she is listed as head of household for numerous years thereafter, it appears she never remarried. Over the years, Calmes worked for different agencies of the federal government as a clerk and stenographer, including a position with the Veterans' Administration as late as 1940. She rented homes in D.C. where her daughter and mother lived with her, and she also leased rooms out to other women who worked for the federal government. In the years immediately after her divorce, she invested in real estate in D.C.
Later in her life, Calmes copyrighted a song titled "No Tears." Calmes died on October 10, 1963 at the age of 77, and is buried in her hometown in Indiana.
A photograph of Calmes is available at:
Find A Grave: Lucille Angiel Calmes. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=136873048. Accessed August 31, 2017; "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MM1Q-GCG : accessed 6 February 2018)
Find A Grave: Lucille Calmes, Oct 1963; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing). Accessed January 20, 1918.
Vivian W Agniel in household of Ada S Agniel, Patoka Township (excl. Princeton city), Gibson, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 12, sheet 2A, family 27, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,372
United States Census, 1910, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MKGL-KYK : accessed 6 February 2018), Vivian W Agniel in household of Ada L Agniel, Princeton Ward 2, Gibson, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 16, sheet 6A, family 154, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 351; FHL microfilm 1,374,364.
United States Census, 1920; Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_205; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 15; Image: 429. Accessed June 10 2017;
"District of Columbia Marriages, 1830-1921," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F71R-VYL : 6 December 2014), Wm Burgess Calmes and Lucille Lescher Agniel, 02 Apr 1915; citing Washington, District Of Columbia, reference p 43 cn 69043; FHL microfilm 2,109,855. Accessed December 15, 2017;
"United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZFP-ZYZ : 12 December 2014), William Burgess Calmes, 1917-1918; citing District of Columbia no 2, District of Columbia, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,570,935. Accessed January 20, 2018.
United States Census, 1930, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XMKK-DVW : accessed 6 February 2018); Patricia F Calmes in household of Lucille A Calmes, Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 18, sheet 1A, line 42, family 17, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 292; FHL microfilm 2,340,027.
"Society: Brooklyn" The Sunday Star, (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 9 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1916-01-09/ed-1/seq-67/. Accessed August 21, 2017.
"Society: Brooklyn" The Sunday Star, (Washington, D.C.), March 12 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1916-03-12/ed-1/seq-74/. Accessed August 21, 2017.
Inez Haynes Gillmore, The Story of the Woman's Party (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1921) pp. 391-96;
Doris Stevens. Jailed for Freedom. (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pp. 305-13. A photo of Calmes appears in unnumbered pages just before the appendices.
"Jail Door Pin," National Woman's Party. http://nationalwomansparty.org/collectionitems/jail-door-pin-2/ Accessed August 21, 2017.
"Jailed For Freedom Pin (Lucille Agniel Calmes)," Smithsonian National Museum of American History. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_767254. Accessed August 21, 2017.
"Wife Cites Hotel Register," The Washington Times (Washington D.C.), July 1, 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026749/1919-07-01/ed-1/seq-7/. Accessed August 22, 2017.