Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Elizabeth "Bettie" Coopwood Morgan Culberson, 1841-1926
By Jacqueline Hoswell, undergraduate student, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Elizabeth "Bettie" Coopwood was born around 1841 in Aberdeen, Mississippi, to George and Evalina Prewett Coopwood, both of Tennessee. Elizabeth Coopwood attended the Aberdeen Female College and was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. She married John A. Morgan likely in the late 1860s. The Morgans had three children, Annie, Davis, and Lois, but only Annie survived to adulthood. By 1880, John Morgan had passed away: Bettie Morgan was listed as a widow in the census. Around 1886, Morgan remarried Sherwood Franklin Culberson, a former Confederate soldier and twenty years her senior. The Culberson family moved from Mississippi to Texas before ending up in Portales, New Mexico, by 1910.
Bettie Culberson had been a teacher in Mississippi and continued to teach when she moved to New Mexico. By 1910, she had been elected as a Democrat to be the superintendent of Roosevelt County Schools. The year was significant for New Mexico: the territory was becoming a state, and the people needed to create a constitution as part of statehood. Up for debate was woman suffrage in school elections and the right of women to hold such offices. Culberson used her position to argue in front of the convention's franchise committee for both suffrage and office holding for women in school elections. The results were mixed. Locally, women maintained the right to vote for trustees, bonds, and administrators; however, they could not vote for county or state superintendents. Additionally, the new state constitution had strict requirements for amendments, specifically designed to restrict attempts to pass statewide woman suffrage. Culberson was not dissuaded. She won her second term as superintendent in 1912, and she continued to advocate for woman suffrage in New Mexico.
As superintendent, Bettie Culberson applauded the people of Roosevelt County for their resilience in the adversity they faced living in a small town that did not have much money. She commended them for uniting resources to educate the county's children. Her biggest concern was the lack of funds for her schools and the need for books. She was hoping these concerns would be addressed by the state legislature.
In addition to her duties as a superintendent, Bettie Culberson was involved in several clubs. She was the first president of the Varina Jefferson Davis, Portales chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and in 1913 she was named honorary president for life. She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and of the Women's Club of Portales, and she chaired the educational committee of the New Mexico State Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1918, she supported the war effort through the Red Cross, speaking at events and purchasing war bonds.
In 1917, Bettie Culberson became a widow for the second time. She moved in with her granddaughter, Willie Mae Elliott, at La Landa, New Mexico. Bettie Culberson passed away in 1926 and was buried at the Culberson family plot in the Portales Cemetery next to Sherwood Culberson.
Billion Graves. Bettie Culberson. Accessed October 26, 2018. www.billiongraves.com/Grave/Bettie-C-Culberson/6146883.
Billion Graves. Dr. Sherwood Culberson. Accessed October 26, 2018. www.billiongraves.com/grave/Sherwood-F-Culberson/5982311.
Billion Graves. Dr. Sherwood F. Culberson. [Monument of Portales Cemetery Confederate Soldiers]. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://billiongraves.com/grave/Sherwood-F-Culberson/5856028.
Christoe, Mrs. James. "From Portales: U.D.C. Monument." Clovis News-Journal (Clovis, N. Mex.). June 3, 1930, 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 William, ed. "Culberson, Mrs. Sherwood Franklin." In Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, Vol. A-D, p.220. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]
"Third Liberty Loan Rally Success." Taiban Valley News (Taiban, N. Mex.). April 19, 1918, p.4. Newspapers.com.
United Daughters of the Confederacy. "Division Reports: New Mexico." In Minutes of the Twenty-First Annual Convention, Held in Savannah, Georgia, November 11-14, 1914, p.375. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1915. HathiTrust.org.
United States Census 1850, 1860, s.v. "Elizabeth Coopwood, Monroe, Mississippi." HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1870, 1880 s.v. "Bettie Morgan, Monroe, Mississippi." HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1900, s.v. "Bettie Culberson, Ector, Texas." HeritageQuest.
United States Census 1910, 1920, s.v. "Bettie Culberson, Portales, New Mexico." HeritageQuest.