Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lora Olive Smith Edmunds, 1877-1963
By Alistair Jeffrey Bernhard, student-researcher, University of Montana, Missoula
Publisher, Suffrage Daily News; Board Member, Montana State School for Girls
Lora Olive Smith was born on April 2, 1877, in Hesperia, Michigan, to John B. Smith and Maria H. Swain. She was educated at Jackson City School in Michigan, and continued her education through college up to a 1st year level. Lora was extremely capable at both reading and writing, which allowed her to move to Sherman, Nebraska, to work as a clerk. She later moved to Nye, Montana after marrying her husband, Ole Edmunds (1846-1913); he died six years later. After her husband's death Lora moved around Montana, spending time in Billings and Stillwater, until she finally ended up in Los Angeles, California. Edmunds died on January 25th, 1963 in Los Angeles.
Lora O. Edmunds became an editor for the Suffrage Daily News, a newspaper published by Montana suffragists in Fall 1914. The paper promoted voting rights, equal pay, and a higher standard of living. The newspaper appeared at the first day of the Montana State Fair, in which Reverend George Cross said that men regarded women as a "thing for pleasure, for childbearing and for labor." Furthermore, the newspaper had advertisements for Jeannette Rankin, who would later become the first female United States congressperson, as well as her brother, Wellington Rankin, a candidate for the U.S. Congress and a member of the Montana Men's Equal Suffrage League. Edmunds's work with this paper, although brief, was extremely effective. Through the pages of the Suffrage Daily News, the Montana Equal Suffrage Association (MESA) appealed to organizations, educators and the people for women's suffrage. MESA managed to convince Montana legislators to put the suffrage amendment on the ballot for the state to vote on. The amendment was adopted on November 3rd, 1914, making Montana was the eleventh state to allow women to vote.
Edmunds used her new political rights to advocate for young women. In 1917, she wrote an article titled, "Girls' Vocational Congress: Greatest Girl Gathering in the World," in which she congratulated Montanans for the work done to promote girls and women for the betterment of the future, asserting that Montana was the "first and only state to officially recognize and seek to develop its greatest resource, girls!" Edmunds's consistent optimism and drive to uplift women from all communities was apparent throughout her life. Furthermore, her daughter, Mary I. Edmunds (1908-1990), was a great influence on her, as Edmunds was not only seeking a better future for herself but for her daughters and the daughters of others in the United States. From 1922 to 1925, Edmunds served on the board of the State Girls Vocational School. The school trained young girls in certain trades and skills to prepare them for the working world.
Following her term at the State Girls Vocational School, Edmunds relocated to Los Angeles. Although she evidently was not involved in women's groups in Los Angeles, she took her right to vote very seriously, voting over twelve times in the space of thirty years.
Educators of Michigan: A Choice Collection of Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Teaching Profession. The Wilton Smith Company, 1894.
Edmunds, Lora Olive. "Girls' Vocational Congress: Greatest Girl Gathering In The World." Journal Of Education, Vol. 85, No. 7 (1917), pp. 181, 186-187.
Montana County Marriages, 1865-1950, p. 913. Ancestry.com
"Mrs. Coit Appointed By Governor Dixon," TheDillon Tribune, December 19, 1924, p. 3. Montana Newspapers, http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053040/1924-12-19/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=1883&city=&rows=20&words=Edmunds+Lora+O&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=2&date2=2015&proxtext=Lora+O+Edmunds&page=1
"A New Era For Women," Suffrage Daily News, September 24, 1914, p. 1. Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-24/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&words=Daily+DAILY+News+NEWS+SUFFRAGE+Suffrage+suffrage&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1963&proxtext=Daily+Suffrage+News&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1
"Woman Suffrage," Suffrage Daily News, September 24, 1914, p. 2. Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85053121/1914-09-24/ed-1/seq-2/
U.S. Census, 1880, 1910, 1940, Ancestry.com