Laura A. Moore Westbrook

 

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Laura A. Moore Westbrook, 1859-1894

 

By: Courtney Grove-Dyer & Brittany Richmond
Undergraduates, University of Michigan-Dearborn

In Tipton County near Mason, Tennessee in 1859, Laura A. Moore was born to enslaved parents, Amelia and Richard Moore. It is likely that all of them remained slaves until the institution was outlawed by the state in 1865. Laura had one younger sister named Vara Lee Moore, born in 1864. Their father understood the importance of knowledge and longed for his daughters' education. He managed to arrange for one of Oberlin College's finest scholars, Rachel Alexander, to tutor his daughters. After only five years of dedicated study, Laura had proven herself an advanced student. At the relatively young age of 11, she answered the demand for educators among the South's African American population by becoming a tutor for other girls in her community. Education proved to be her life's calling.

Laura went to Central Tennessee College around 1878, where she met her husband Rev. Charles P. Westbrook. In 1880, she graduated, married in July, and then moved to Texas in December where she took on a job as school principal of Victoria City School. Forced to follow the work of her husband, they next moved to Waco, Texas where she participated in the work of the W H. Mission, teaching school and serving as the corresponding secretary of the W H. Mission Society. Over a span of 20 years Westbrook continued her work in the public schools. She served as the second vice president of the Colored Teachers' Institute, an organization of African American teachers in McLennan County, Texas. Westbrook also served on the Advisory Board of the 22nd Senatorial District for Texas, and evaluated African American applicants seeking state scholarships at Prairie View State Normal Institute.

While in Texas, Westbrook became a member of the largest women's organization in the country, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU worked to reduce crime, poverty, and immortality through promoting total abstinence from alcohol and sought to put liquor dealers out of business. In 1888, the Texas WCTU, Westbrook's own state chapter, became the first union in the South to take the radical step of endorsing women's suffrage. The WCTU called for the enfranchisement of women in the name of "home protection," arguing that women needed the vote in order to stop the abuse that women and children endured by their drunken husbands. They also worked to promote a broad agenda of social welfare reforms. As a part of her work with the WCTU, Westbrook traveled through many states lecturing and teaching people about temperance and Christianity.

Recognized by others for being passionate about her work, colleagues described her as aggressive when defending people of her race. Monroe Major, author of Noted Negro Women: Their Triumphs and Activities, claimed her to be a firm believer of the true, the pure, and the beautiful. Westbrook lived a meaningful and active life, though it proved to be a short one. The Central Tennessee College newspaper, published in July of 1894, references the death of Westbrook, suggesting she died at only 35 years of age.

Image source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. "Mrs. L.A. Westbrook. W.C.T.U. [Woman's Christian Temperance Union] Advocate, Teacher and Lecturer." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 6, 2018. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-7562-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Portrait of educator, Laura A. Moore Westbrook. , ca. 1873. [United States] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016645956/. (Accessed April 06, 2018.)

Sources

"Central Tennessee College." Southwestern Christian Advocate [New Orleans, Louisiana] 5 July 1894: 4. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 17 Mar. 2018.

Catalogue Central Tennessee College. Central Tennessee College. Vols. 1877-1878. Nashville: Nashville, Tennessee. : [s.n.], 1878.

Judith N. McArthur, "Woman's Christian Temperance Union," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed March 16, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vaw01.

Majors, Monroe Alphus. Noted Negro Women: Their Triumphs and Activities. (Jackson, TN: Jackson Tennessee Publishing House, 1893), pp. 115-18. [LINK]

Major, Monroe A. Accomplished: African-American Women in Victorian America (Abridged, Annotated). https://books.google.com/books?id=ETiACwAAQBAJ&dq=laura a Moore Westbrook Central Tennessee College&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Accessed March 17, 2018.

"On an Old Indictment." Galveston Daily News [Houston, Texas] 18 Aug. 1892: 4. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. Web. 17 Mar. 2018.

"Mrs. L.A. Westbrook. W.C.T.U. [Woman's Christian Temperance Union] Advocate, Teacher and Lecturer." Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed March 17, 2018. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-7562-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

United States Federal Census. Heritage Quest . Census, Lehi: Intellectual Reserve, Inc, 1880.

"Waco. A Minister's Long Service." Newspapers.com. Accessed March 17, 2018. https://www.newspapers.com/image/84394953/?terms=L. A. Westbrook.

 

Links to Additional Biographical Sketches

Monroe Majors, Noted Negro Women
 

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