Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Laura Eppelsheimer Frenger, 1873-1961
By Jessica Aguirre, undergraduate student, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Clubwoman, music teacher, suffragist
Laura Eppelsheimer Frenger was a suffragist from Las Cruces, New Mexico. She was born on April 5, 1873, in St. Louis, Missouri, to German immigrants, Frank and Laura (Bierbaum) Eppelsheimer. The younger Laura Eppelsheimer traveled to Germany to attend the Conservatory of Sondenhausen Thüringen. After returning to St. Louis, she married George W. Frenger in 1893. In 1898, the Frengers moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to pursue business opportunities with George's uncle, Numa Raymond Frenger. The Frengers had three children: Reymond, Frank G., and Laura Louise (Woods).
Having studied music, Laura Frenger pursued a career teaching it. She gave lessons privately and also taught for two years at the State College of New Mexico, a precursor of New Mexico State University. She also promoted music on a state-wide level. She initiated the New Mexico Federation of Music and was the state chairman of Atwater Kent Radio Audition for several years. She dedicated herself to enticing young people to engage music, and she worked to develop opportunities for music in and around her community.
In addition to music, Laura Frenger was an advocate for women's interests. In 1910, Frenger called a convention for a New Mexico branch of the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC), and she brought the GFWC president, Eva Perry Moore, to the territory's formative meeting. At its formation, the women of the New Mexico clubs embraced woman suffrage, and they made the vote, along with connected legal frameworks, part of their club agenda. Although Frenger was offered the presidency of the territory's branch, she chose, instead, to serve as secretary of the New Mexico branch, a position she held for more than a decade. In 1894, she had helped found the Women's Improvement Association (WIA), which included a child welfare program and a Home for Delinquent Girls. In 1897, the WIA affiliated with the GFWC. Eventually, the WIA merged into the New Mexico club branch.
Laura Frenger added to her club work. During the Great War, Frenger brought a Red Cross Unit to New Mexico. In 1931, she was an organizer of the first Pan-American Round Table in New Mexico, and she was honored as an honorary member of the Las Cruces Round Table prior to 1942. In 1954, Frenger was chosen as the first Woman of Achievement by the Women's Self-Governing Board of New Mexico State University, then still known as New Mexico A&M. According to an article in the El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, N. Mex.) commemorating the Frengers' anniversary in 1942, Laura Frenger's activism led to her receiving national recognition as "one of the five outstanding women in New Mexico."
Laura Frenger died on September 29, 1961. Her husband, George Frenger, predeceased her on October 29, 1956. Both are buried in Masonic Cemetery, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Caption: Mrs. George W. Frenger, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Credit: Branigan Cultural Center. "Women's Improvement Association." In Las Cruces: Crossroads of History. Digital exhibit. Accessed October 3, 2018. http://www.las-cruces.org/code/history_exhibit/LearnMore/RailroadWIALM.html.
Branigan Cultural Center. "Women's Improvement Association." In Las Cruces: Crossroads of History. Digital exhibit. Accessed October 3, 2018. http://www.las-cruces.org/code/history_exhibit/LearnMore/RailroadWIALM.html.
Find a Grave. George W. Frenger. Accessed October 3, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/121920229/george-w-frenger.
Find a Grave. Laura Eppelsheimer Frenger. Accessed October 3, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/121920254/frenger.
"Golden Wedding Anniversary: Las Cruces Couple Married 50 Years," El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, Tex.), Home ed. December 31, 1942, p.3. Newspapers.com.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "New Mexico." Chapter XXX in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, 434-439. [LINK]
Leonard, John W. "Frenger, Laura E." In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, volume E-K, p.43. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]
"Mrs. George W. Frenger, Las Cruces Pioneer, Dies." Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N. Mex.). Morning ed. October 1, 1961, p.1. Newspapers.com.
"Pioneer Dies." Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N. Mex.). Afternoon ed. October 29, 1956, p.1. Newspapers.com.
"Pioneer Las Crucens Married 56 Years; Live Here Since 1898." Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N. Mex.). Morning ed. January 09, 1949, 3. Newspapers.com.
Stanford, Charles B. "Southern New Mexico Women's Clubs." In Out of the Shadows: The Women of Southern New Mexico, edited by Martha Shipman Andrew. Los Ranchos, N. Mex: Rio Grande Books, 2012.
United States Census 1880, s.v. "Laura Eppelsheimer." HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1900, 1910, 1930, s.v. "Laura Frenger." HeritageQuest.
Winslow, Helen M., ed. Official Register and Directory of Women's Clubs in America. Vol. 15. Shirley, Mass., 1913, 173.