Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Chenault Bennett Smith Gagliardini

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth "Elise" Chenault Bennett Smith Gagliardini, 1871 – 1964

By Louise T. Jones, Director of Research Experience, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky

Elizabeth Chenault Bennett was born in 1871 in Richmond, Kentucky to James and Sarah Clay Bennett. She was the granddaughter of Cassius Clay, and her mother and aunt Laura were the key figures who created and nurtured the Kentucky suffrage movement. She attended the University of Michigan, earning a philosophy degree in 1895 and took additional coursework at Wellesley College and in Germany. She married first Thomas Jefferson Smith on February 3, 1898. She had a daughter Elise Bennett Smith (1899-1986) who would also be active in Kentucky suffrage work and a son Thomas Jefferson Smith, Jr. (1904-1944). Thomas J. Smith, Sr., who was the state banking commissioner, died in 1916. Elise then married George D. Jefferson (1863-1937) on November 25, 1920. Jefferson was Canadian, and the marriage took place in London, England. Following their union, the couple resided in Italy but travelled extensively. After Jefferson's death in 1937, Elise married a third time. She wed Alessandro Gagliardini (1903-1966) in New York City on January 15, 1938. Throughout her life she enjoyed swimming and other outdoor sports. She died in 1964 in New York and is buried in Richmond Cemetery, Madison County.

While she lived in Kentucky, Elise Bennett Smith was active in local and state women's organizations between 1907 and 1918. During her marriage to Thomas J. Smith, Sr., she resided in Richmond, Frankfort, and Louisville. She was the president of the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs and a member of the Madison County Suffrage Association. She served as delegate to the 1913 NAWSA convention and served as a NAWSA Executive Committee member on several occasions. She became president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association in 1915, a position she held for one year. In 1917, she became corresponding secretary for the state organization. After the death of her first husband, she spent most of her time abroad and returned to the United States only occasionally between 1919 and 1938.


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