Biographical Sketch of Charlotte Le Moyne Wills

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Charlotte Le Moyne Wills, 1824-1908

By Mary A. van Balgooy, Executive Director, Society of Woman Geographers

Charter Member of the Friday Morning Club; Vice President of the Women's Industrial Exchange Association; Vice President of the Ladies Benevolent Society; member of the Woman's Parliament of Southern California, Los Angeles Women's Club, City Woman's Suffrage Association of Los Angeles

Charlotte Le Moyne Wills actively participated in many social movements. Born on June 21, 1824 in Washington, Pennsylvania to Dr. Francis Julius Le Moyne and Madeleine Romaine Bureau, her parents involved her in abolition as well as women's rights. Her family housed runaway slaves in the family's barn as part of the Underground Railroad. She attended abolition and women's rights conventions with her father in Philadelphia and Boston. In 1841, Charlotte graduated from Washington Female Seminary, a school her father helped found. In 1848, she married Pittsburgh attorney John Alexander Wills (1819-1891), who was also involved in reform movements.

After marrying, the Wills lived in various parts of the country—Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC. It is likely Charlotte Wills continued her work for women's rights and other social movements with her husband. In 1884, the Wills moved to Los Angeles and it is here that Wills began to appear in the newspaper for her work on behalf of women and children while working closely with Caroline Severance, a pioneer organizer of women's clubs.

Charlotte Wills served as a member of several clubs, committees, and projects. She was a charter member of the Friday Morning Club. She served as vice president of the Women's Industrial Exchange Association of Los Angeles, on the first board of directors of the Charity Kindergarten Society, and as second vice-president of the Ladies Benevolent Society. She was also involved with the Woman's Parliament of Southern California, Los Angeles Women's Club, City Woman's Suffrage Association of Los Angeles, and other local woman suffrage organizations.

During the first statewide vote for woman's suffrage in 1896 in California, the women of the state asked Susan B. Anthony to organize their campaign. When Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt visited Los Angeles to address the Friday Morning Club, Wills escorted Anthony to the platform and introduced her to over 200 women and ten men. Ultimately, the women of the state lost their first contest for the right to vote.

In 1905, Susan B. Anthony visited Los Angeles again as part of a trip where she attended the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) convention in Portland, Oregon. For her visit, the Los Angeles County Equal Suffrage League planned an “Equal Suffrage Day” as part of their “Great Venice Assembly” meeting. The event included a reception at the Friday Morning Club which Caroline Severance and Charlotte Wills served as chairs of the committee arranging the reception. When Susan B. Anthony, her sister Mary Anthony, and Anna Howard Shaw arrived in Los Angeles at the end of July, Susan B. Anthony and Shaw stayed with Wills while Mary Anthony stayed with Severance. At the reception the following day, Wills sat on the speakers' platform with Susan and Mary Anthony, Anna Shaw, Caroline Severance, Rebecca Spring, Lily Fremont, and Georgina Jones. On the evening of the last day of the meeting, Wills gave a large farewell reception in her home on Los Angeles' Bunker Hill. It was also during Anthony's visit that she posed for a photograph with the three “notable pioneers of the suffrage movement in America”—Rebecca Spring, Charlotte Wills, and Caroline Severance—that ran in the Los Angeles Times in October 1905.

Charlotte Wills died on October 5, 1908 in Los Angeles, California.

Sources:

“News Notes: John A. Wills,” Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1891.

“Woman Parliament: Its Second Annual Session to Open Tuesday,” Los Angeles Times, October 8, 1893.

“Susan B. Arrives: She is Received at the Friday Morning Club Rooms,” Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1896.

“Ladies' Benevolent Society: Annual Report and Election of Officers for the Year,” Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1897.

“Lafayette Kissed Her: Octogenarian Club Woman with Romantic Life Story,” Los Angeles Times, June 19, 1904.

“Surprise for the Men Folk: Woman Suffragists Organize Throughout City,” Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1904.

“May Blot Out Suffragists: Venice Managers Interfere in Woman's Plan,” Los Angeles Times, July 4, 1905.

“Now, Mr. Cleveland, Better Be Good!,” Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1905.

“Simple Rites for Mrs. Wills: Peaceful End to a Long Life of Active Service,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 1908.

Elwood-Akers, Virginia. Caroline Severance, New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2010.

Lee Hubbell, Thelma, and Gloria R. Lothrop. “The Friday Morning Club: A Los Angeles Legacy.” Southern California Quarterly, 50, no. 1 (1968): 59–90. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41170153.

"United States Census, 1870," FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZ2L-KV1 : accessed 26 April 2018).

"United States Census, 1900," FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M9PF-Q5Q : accessed 26 April 2018).

Wills Family Papers, Online Archive of California, (http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8f47tt8/admin/: accessed 16 April 2018).

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