Biographical Sketch of Lily Bunker Hagans

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Lily Bunker Hagans 1865- 1939

By Katharine Antolini, West Virginia University

Lily Bunker Hagans was born in Morgantown, WV in 1865 the middle child of three girls born to John M. Marshall Hagans and Sarah Barnes Willey Hagans, both descendants of West Virginia's most prominent families. She was the granddaughter of state founder and U.S. Senator Waitman Thomas Willey, and a leading State industrialist, Harrison Hagans, who also served as a member of the Wheeling Convention. Her father, Judge John M. Marshall Hagans was a celebrated state resident as well. He was Mayor of Morgantown from 1866-1869, served as State Attorney General and also one term in Congress in the early 1870s.#x00a0

Lily inherited her family's interest in politics and was engaged in community affairs of Monongalia County. As a single woman, she dedicated her life to serving her community, church, and the fight for woman's rights. She was active in the Morgantown Women's Club movement throughout her life. She was a charter member of the Elizabeth Ludington Hagans Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1904, named in honor of her deceased sister, Bessie, who was the first native West Virginia woman to join the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1893. Lily was also a member of the West Virginia Federation of Women's Club and noted in convention reports as a paper presenter in May 1914. She took an active role in the Methodist Episcopal Church, as well, assisting in organizing the first Epworth League in Morgantown. As a charter member and secretary of the "Day Chapter," Lily helped to join the state to a national United Methodist Church movement to inspire young adults to become spiritual and social leaders in their communities.

Lily's work in the collection of southern folk songs earned her countywide admiration as a well-known "patron of the art and collector of historical material." She carried the same interest and dedication into her suffrage work. Lily appears in the suffrage records as assisting the state's movement in the managing, collecting and dispensing of suffrage literature in 1916. She was thirty-one years old in 1916, living an independent life as the last surviving member of her immediate family. Lily outlived both of her sisters. Her younger sister, Bessie, died at the age of twenty-six in 1900, and her older sister, Mary Hagan Hartigan, died at the age of forty-two in 1905. While serving on the literature committee, Lily Bunker Hagans must have recognized the significance of leaving a record of the state's suffrage movement --just as Carrie Chapman Catt did in 1921 when she encouraged all chapters to preserve the movement's literature as "archives now cast aside will be of great interest some day after the controversy and propaganda are over."

Sources:

Clarksburg Telegram. "Judge J. M. Hagans Dead." June 22, 1900.

Clarksburg Telegram. "Mrs. J. M. Hagans Dead." March 19, 1897.

Cox, John Harrington. Folk Songs of the South: Collected Under the Auspices of the West Virginia Folk-Lore Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.

Fairmont West Virginian. "Mrs. Armstrong Makes Strong Address; Convention of Women's Clubs Held Here as Brilliant Success." May 11, 1914.

Handbook of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Convention National American Woman Suffrage Association Votes for Women Held at Cleveland, Ohio, April 13, 1921.

Morgantown Post. "Lily B. Hagans Dies at Home." October 12, 1939.

West Virginian. "Named Delegates." February 9, 1917.

Lily Bunker Hagans is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery, Morgantown, W.V.

 

 

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