Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lois Humphrey Kelly, 1821-1892

By Brandi Burns, History Programs manager, Boise City Dept. of Arts & History

Lois Eliza Humphrey, called the "pioneer suffragist of Idaho," was born on July 15, 1821 in Goshen, Connecticut. Despite this moniker, there is little evidence of her role in Idaho's suffrage quest. The most likely role she played was a behind-the-scenes organizer and hostess to visiting suffrage lecturers.

Lois's early life was spent in Connecticut, and by the 1840 Census her family, Rachel Ives Beach and Charles Humphrey, had moved to Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio. Her father raised livestock at this time.

It is likely that Lois married her husband, Milton Kelly, on June 25, 1843 in Medina, Ohio. Their first child, Ellen, was born in 1848 in Western Star, Ohio. By 1850, they went to Monroe, Green county, Wisconsin where their last three children were born. Milton became a lawyer around 1845. Around 1862 he came to the Idaho Territory, and his family moved to Oberlin, Ohio. According to an obituary for Kate Perrault, one of Lois and Milton's daughters, Lois and the children moved to Lewiston, Idaho Territory in 1867. Milton was appointed as the United States district judge for Idaho Territory in 1864 and eventually the family moved to Boise City in 1869. Milton resigned in 1870 and purchased The Idaho Statesman, becoming the newspaper's second editor. Lois, likely well-aware of the suffrage news covered in The Idaho Statesman (July 23, 1939), is mentioned in a photo caption as "one of early Boise's best known hostesses." Daughter Kate Perrault's obituary also mentions that Kate played a role in helping to pass the Idaho suffrage bill in 1896. Kate was likely influenced by her mother, Lois, in this arena.

The Kelly family played a prominent role in Boise society, and after the deaths of both Lois and Milton within a month of each other, the siblings fell into a dispute over the estate. Lois passed away in Boise on March 15, 1892, four years before the women of Idaho achieved suffrage.


1830 United States Census, Canton, Hartford Connecticut; p. 289, Series M19; Roll 7; Family History Library Film 0002800, Operations, Provo, UT.

1840 United States Census, Wadsworth, Medina, Ohio; p. 183, Operations, Provo, UT.

1850 United States Census, Monroe, Green, Wisconsin; p. 214A, Operations, Provo, UT.

1860 United States Census, Cadiz, Green, Wisconsin; p. 88, Operations, Provo, UT.

1880 United States Census, Boise City, Ada, Idaho, p. 10D, Operations, Provo, UT.

Balderston, William. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 4. Edited by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper. Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press, 1902.

"Mrs. Milton Kelly," The Idaho Statesman, July 23, 1939.

"Death Claims Mrs. Perrault," The Idaho Daily Statesman, July 31, 1935.

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