Biography of Cora Dunham Boyd, 1860-1933
By Kiley Dukes and Natasha Helme, undergraduate students, Northwest Missouri State University. Edited by Dr. Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University
Cora Dunham was born November 22, 1860, in St. Louis, Missouri, to John S. Dunham and Emily M. (Peckman) Dunham. She graduated from the Mary Institute of St. Louis, a progressive female educational institution, in 1879. Cora married Dr. Rev. William W. Boyd in 1880, and they had two sons: William W. Boyd, Jr., and Frank D. Boyd. Cora was not extensively involved with suffrage during her sons' childhoods, but became very active after her sons entered adulthood. She participated in the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Missouri Equal Suffrage Association, Missouri Federation of Women's Clubs, Missouri Suffrage League, and Wednesday Club of Saint Louis.
Cora Boyd played a significant role in creating a St. Louis chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1891. She also served as the Missouri Federation of Women's Clubs' Director and was a delegate to the General Federation of Women's Clubs national convention in 1916 and a statewide convention in St. Joseph in 1901.
The Wednesday Club of Saint Louis was one of the clubs registered in the Missouri Federation of Women's Club, and Cora was the president from 1914 to 1916. During her presidency, the Club's membership increased from 450 to 550. Additionally, the Club helped establish the School of Housekeeping and the Central Institute for the Deaf. In 1916, the organization split into two factions, causing Cora to resign.
She was also a member of the Missouri Suffrage League, an organization that worked to establish women's suffrage through collecting both male and female signatures and hosting events where national speakers could discuss women's suffrage. Cora served as the League's president. Her start date cannot be officially determined, but her presidency ended when she resigned in April 1913.
The Missouri Equal Suffrage Association was another state-level organization. Cora was nominated and elected as the Association's president in 1913, but resigned within the same year after a controversial event where several argued for women's suffrage in between the acts of a play. Cora ran again for president in 1916, but was not elected. The election results were controversial because 12 members resigned in protest.
On August 23, 1933, Cora Boyd died at the age of 72 in Chautauqua, New York, her summer home since 1917. She is buried in St. Louis. Throughout her life, Boyd worked to reform American society to better the lives of women and to establish women's suffrage on the national level.
Photograph of Missouri Suffragists' plaque in Jefferson City, Missouri
An overview of Cora Dunham Boyd can be found in John W. Leonard's Woman's Who's who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915 (New York, New York: The American Commonwealth Company, 1914). In The American ancestors and descendants of Willard William and Cora Dunham Boyd, 1620-1928 (St. Louis, 1928) Boyd herself provides family tree information. Newspapers, especially those in St. Louis, Missouri, regularly highlighted her suffrage work: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The St. Louis Star and Times, and St. Joseph Gazette-Herald.