Biographical Sketch of Lydia Wickliffe Holmes

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lydia Wickliffe Holmes, 1877-1958

By Kelly Blessinger, Head of Access Services, LSU Libraries

Charter Member and Chairman, Woman's Suffrage Association of Louisiana

Born Lydia Cooke in Louisville, Kentucky, she married Robert C. Wickliffe in 1903, when she was twenty five. Her husband was a United States (U.S.) congressman from Louisiana from 1909-1912. Lydia had two sons that both died before they reached a year of age, Robert, born in 1904, and Coleman, born in 1908. In 1910, Lydia gave birth to a baby girl Brent, who survived into old age. While her husband was in Congress, Lydia played a distinctive role amongst the women of the capitol. It was reported that her attendance at the sessions of the House was more regular than that of many of the representatives. In 1912, Lydia was widowed when her husband was killed in Washington D.C. by a train while crossing a railroad bridge.

In 1913, Lydia created the first statewide suffrage organization in Louisiana while also campaigning to be the national Chief of the Child Labor Bureau. This bureau was one that she and Congressman Wickliffe had strongly campaigned for the creation of. Despite much support, President Wilson chose to retain the former chief, Miss Julia Lathrop. In 1915, Lydia remarried, to Colonel William Stone Holmes. In 1920, while chairman of the Woman's Suffrage Association, she travelled to Tennessee to aid in the campaign to ratify the 19th Amendment. At this time, only one more state was needed to ratify the amendment to the United States Constitution. The Tennessee legislature ratified the amendment in a special session. There were however, still those who campaigned against the suffrage movement. The timeliness of this vote was important, and the passage allowed women to vote in the November 2nd, 1920 presidential election. In 1922, Lydia filed and was granted a divorce from Mr. Holmes.

Lydia remained active throughout her life, both in civic matters and historical restoration work. Notable historical projects she played a leading role on included the upper Pontalba building and and the Beauregard House in New Orleans. Lydia died in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the age of 81 at the home of her daughter. She was buried in Louisville, Kentucky next to her late husband, Robert C. Wickliffe.

Sources: (in MLA format)

Cunningham, John M. “United States Presidential Election of 1920.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 26 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-1920.

Harper, Ida Husted, editor. The History of Women's Suffrage: 1900-1920. Vol. 6, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, [LINK].

“Lydia Cooke Wickliffe (1877-1958) - Find A Grave...” Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/75154264.

Wickliffe, Robert Charles, (1874 - 1912). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000443.

“Lydia Cooke Wickliffe (1877-1958) - Find A Grave...” Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/75154264.

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