Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Katherine Devereux Blake, 1858-1950
By Melissa K White, independent historian
Katherine Devereux Blake had the unique distinction of being a second-generation activist and suffragist. Katherine was born in 1858 in New York City to pioneer suffragist Lillie Devereux and Frank Umsted. Both Katherine and her widowed mother acquired the surname Blake upon her mother's remarriage in 1866 to Grinfill Blake.
Katherine earned her degree from Normal College (now-titled Hunter College) in 1876. Katherine worked in the New York City public school system for her entire career. She started as a teacher and then became the principal of the Girls Department of Public School 6 in 1894. Public School 6 was renamed after Katherine's mother in 1916. During her time in the New York City school system she advocated for better school conditions, textbook reform, night school availability for women and for the election of women to the New York Board of Education. Katherine was the first female Treasurer of the New York Board of Education and she was also the President of the National Education Association. In 1928 Katherine was one of the 19 educators chosen to accompany noted philosopher Dr. John Dewey on his official visit to Russia in 1928.
Katherine's suffrage activity included her fellow educators. She was the head of approximately 15,000 teachers in New York State working for the women's suffrage. She marched in a 1915 parade sponsored by the Women Suffrage Association. During the summers between 1911 and 1919 she was sent by NAWSA (National American Women Suffrage Association) to different states to campaign for women's suffrage. She traveled to Montana, California, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, New Jersey and Connecticut.
In addition to her suffrage activity, Katherine was also an advocate for peace. She was a member of the Ford Peace Expedition from 1915-1916. She served as the New York Chair of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, eventually serving on the national and international boards. She was the chief spokesperson for the Disarmament Caravan which carried a disarmament petition to President Herbert Hoover in 1931 and also to the International Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1932. This petition had nearly 7 million signatures.
Katherine co-authored a book about her mother, Champion of Women: The Life of Lillie Devereux Blake, in addition to working as a newspaper correspondent.
Katherine Devereux Blake, Champion of Women: The Life of Lillie Devereux Blake (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1943).
Katherine Deveraux Blake Collected Papers. Swathmore Colege Peace Collection. Retrieved from http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/peace/CDGA.A-L/blake.htm
"Katherine Devereux Blake: Chalkboard Champion, Suffragist, and Peace Activist." Retrieved from http://chalkboardchampions.org.
Cooney, Robert. Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement (Santa Cruz, CA: American Graphic Press, 2005).