Biographical Sketch of Charlotte Louise McArthur

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Charlotte Louise McArthur, 1865-?

By Callie McCoy and Jasmine Baczkiewicz, undergraduate students, Northwest Missouri State University. Edited by Dr. Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University

Charlotte Louise (Bothwell) McArthur was born in Canada in 1865 and had one sister. The family moved to the United States in 1868. Charlotte married Renfrew Douglas McArthur in 1886, and they lived in St. Louis, Missouri, from around 1900 to 1911, with some travels abroad during that time. The McArthurs were prominent citizens of St. Louis and lived in Webster Groves, Ward 2, on Marshall Place Street. They had two children, a son named John Cawley and a daughter named Marjorie.

In St. Louis from 1900 to 1909, most suffrage activity consisted of women's club involvement. The clubs chose a day to meet and that became the name of their club. Charlotte began her journey into the suffrage movement by becoming a member of the History and Literature Women's Monday Club. She first joined the Monday Club in 1903, and then in 1904 she became the club's corresponding secretary.

The Monday Club held business meetings and conventions. As a part of the group, Charlotte sometimes hosted meetings, gave toasts, and led discussions. At one meeting, for example, she gave a speech on pragmatism and read a paper on rationalism. The Monday Club in Webster Groves focused mostly on activities and topics that were not overly radical, but other groups of women, such as the Mary Institute Alumnae, invited speakers such as Sylvia Pankhurst, an outspoken and radical English activist for women's suffrage as well as universal suffrage, to St. Louis. Over time, even groups like the Monday Club in Webster Groves became more involved in suffrage. One of the important suffrage groups in the city was the St. Louis Suffrage League, which was formed in 1910 by women's clubs in the city. By 1911, it had grown substantially, and its activities had become increasingly radical. This group fed into the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association, a larger state organization, and contributed to the National American Woman Suffrage Association, both of which focused on suffrage.

By 1910, Charlotte was a part of the newly formed Webster Groves Suffrage League of St. Louis, and she became the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association's auditor. As the auditor, Charlotte examined and analyzed the accounts of the organization. Because of her position in the League, it was possible that Charlotte was involved in drawing up the St. Louis Suffrage League's constitutional resolution of 1911, which stated that Missouri should give the right to vote to women.

Charlotte served roughly six to seven years as an officer in various women's clubs. The last few appearances of her in the press come in newspaper columns on other topics, such as when her children got married. Although her time in the Webster Groves St. Louis Suffrage League was short, Charlotte was able to see many significant changes in the women's suffrage movement. Charlotte McArthur was an ordinary woman, but she shared the extraordinary dream of many other women: the vote.

Sources:

Charlotte Louise McArthur's suffrage work featured in several newspapers, including: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis Republic, and Topeka Daily Capital. 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 Althea Grossman's “The Part of the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League in the Campaign for Equal Suffrage,” Missouri Historical Review 14:3-4 (April-July 1920).

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