Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Laura “Lollie” Davis Fitzhugh, 1873-1948
By Patricia Bruno, undergrad student, Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR
Business Owner and Activist in the Suffrage Movement
Laura “Lollie” Davis was born February 15, 1873 to Thomas Jefferson Davis and Martha Hood Davis in St. Francis County, Arkansas. After her education in the rural county schools, Davis graduated from Ward Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee. She continued her education at Vanderbilt University and the University of France in Paris, where she earned a bachelor's degree in law in 1923.
Laura Davis married 53-year-old Rufus King Fitzhugh, Jr. on September 6, 1905. The couple profited from a successful cotton operation, which Laura took over after her husband died in 1914. Laura Fitzhugh was promptly elected to serve as the President of the Fitzhugh-Snapp Mercantile and Fitzhugh Gin Company. She enjoyed political success as well. In October of that same year, she served as one of the six presidents of the State Woman Suffrage Association, representing Augusta, Arkansas and its surrounding communities. She was reelected in 1915.
Laura Fitzhugh furthered her already considerable education, receiving a law degree from Chicago University, becoming one of the first female attorneys in the state of Arkansas. After her graduation, Fitzhugh continued to channel her talents into the suffrage movement, founding and serving as president of one of the first Equal Suffrage Clubs in Arkansas. Fitzhugh also organized the Arkansas Democratic Women's Club and served two terms as its elected president.
In her fifties, Laura Fitzhugh donated her land in Fitzhugh, Arkansas for the establishment of a school. Fitzhugh School served only white students in all twelve grades, while the larger Woodruff County Training School housed black students. The building was considered an impressive feat for the era with its electricity, modern twist on Tudor architecture, and large theater hall. Unfortunately, the Fitzhugh School burned down in 1949, forcing its students to attend school in Augusta.
In the 1930 US Census for Augusta, Arkansas, Laura is listed as a widow and the head of her household. Fitzhugh cared for her two children, Davis (23) and Thomas (21), in addition to her older widowed sister, Lula Neel. Her occupation is listed as a cotton farmer.
A loyal Democrat, Fitzhugh threw her full support toward the Roosevelt presidency. When the Democratic Party needed fundraising to assist paying off the national deficit, Fitzhugh responded by organizing Roosevelt-Garner clubs and raising donations. Fitzhugh also helped Arkansas Senator Hattie Caraway win her election via her leadership of the Arkansas Women's Democratic Club. The organization focused on areas with a large female voter percentage. In 1934, the Democratic State Committee appointed Fitzhugh to serve as the vice-chairman of the organization. She was the first woman to hold this position. In 1936, Laura Fitzhugh served as an Arkansas delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
On May 25, 1948, Laura Davis Fitzhugh died at seventy-five years old. She is buried with her husband in Augusta Memorial Park in Augusta, Arkansas.
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas. The Goodspeed Publishing Co, 1890. Pp. 272-320.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. p. 18.
Kestenbaum, Lawrence. “Female Politicians in Arkansas, D-J,” Political Graveyard, last modified December 20, 2015, http://politicalgraveyard.com/geo/AR/female.D-J.html.
“Laura ‘Lollie' Davis Fitzhugh,” Findagrave, last modified May 4, 2009, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36716480/laura-fitzhugh.
Perkins, Wendy S. “Augusta Memorial Park Historic Section.” National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. Washington, DC: US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 2003). Section 8, Page 5.
“She Should be Elected,” The Mountain Echo (Yellville, Arkansas), February 4, 1926.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth (1910) and Fifteenth Censuses of the United States (1930), Population. Woodruff County, Arkansas. Heritagequest.