Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Louise Werth, 1840-1918
By Megan Fickler and Chloe Haffarnan, Undergraduate Students, Northwest Missouri State University. Edited by Dr. Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University
Louise Ludecus was born in New York on August 24, 1840. She married Gotthold Werth and had two children: Duncan and Frieda Werth. With her family, Louise traveled to Alabama before settling in St. Louis, Missouri. Although nothing is known about her early life or education, she played a large role on the national suffrage stage.
Once established in Missouri, Louise quickly ascended to positions of importance in the suffrage movement. Werth was active in a stagnant period in Missouri suffrage history. Despite little legislative progress in the late 1800s to 1910, Louise was able to push for change on the national, state and local levels.
Louise was a part of a pivotal moment in the suffrage organizational level. The American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association combined to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890. Louise attended one of the first annual meetings in Washington, D.C., in 1893. At this meeting, she represented the state of Missouri. In addition, she and two other women were highlighted in later proceedings for their plans to attend the Democratic National Convention in 1904. At the Democratic National Convention, they advocated for women's suffrage, in a very male-dominated setting.
On the state level, Louise served as president of the Missouri State Suffrage Association in 1902. After her presidency, she remained an active member, demonstrated most by her efforts at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where she set up the main headquarters. By passing out educational materials and actively recruiting, Louise spread information to thousands of visitors about women's suffrage.
Louise remained a local proponent of suffrage in St. Louis through frequent appearances in newspapers. She combated attacks on suffrage by answering questions commonly asked of suffragists. Taking on Elinor Glyn from England, Louise confronted the idea that if women gained the right to vote, they would neglect their duties at home. Louise countered Glyn's argument by addressing the amount of time voting requires, “Does it take a man's whole life to cast a vote every two years?”
Louise Werth's persistence during a lull in the women's suffrage movement did not go unnoticed. Although she died in 1918, two years before women got the right to vote, Louise helped keep the movement alive in Missouri.
“St. Louis Women are Doing Much for Equal Suffrage.” The St. Louis Star and Times (St. Louis) June 18, 1911, p.17.
Louise Werth was featured regularly in St. Louis, Missouri newspapers including: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Republic, and The St. Louis Star and Times. The article “St. Louis Women are Doing Much for Equal Suffrage,” The St. Louis Star and Times (June 18, 1911), p.17, provides a detailed overview of Werth's work. She also appears in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's “Various Woman Associations in the United States,” in History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920, 1st ed., vol. 6 (p.344), edited by Ida Harper (New York, NY: J.J Little and Ives Company, 1922) [LINK] and Harriet Taylor Upton's Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the National American Women Suffrage Association (Washington, D.C.: Stormont & Jackson, 1893).