Biographical Sketch of Frances R. Estill Beauchamp

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Frances R. Estill Beauchamp, 1857-1923

By Dr. Randolph Hollingsworth, Independent Scholar, Auckland, New Zealand

Frances R. Estill Beauchamp served as an important connection between the largest women's organization in the nation, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and the Kentucky suffrage movement. In collaboration with the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs (KFWC) and the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA), the Kentucky WCTU under Beauchamp's leadership brought a depth of scope and political strategies that the KERA needed at crucial points in the fight for women's right to vote. She proved an ally to women's suffrage even when many other prohibitionists warned that mixing the two movements would undermine their own cause. A writer, philanthropist and popular orator, Beauchamp took to heart her mentor Frances Willard's “Do Everything” policy. She described herself in the Woman's Who's Who of America (1914) as an “authority on sociological problems.”

Known to her family as “Fannie” in her youth, Beauchamp grew up in rural Kentucky. She was born on May 5, 1857, the only child of James W. and Nancy Scott Estill. Her parents were farmers in Madison and Garrard Counties. They sent Fannie to board at Science Hill and learn from one of the best educators in Kentucky at the time, Mrs. Julia R. Tevis. She graduated in 1874 and, at the age of 18, on June 3, 1875, she married and went to live with 33-year-old James H. Beauchamp who was a former Lieutenant in the Confederate 10th Kentucky Cavalry and a lawyer from Taylorsville in Spencer County. Sometime after 1880, the couple moved to Lexington to build the Buckner, Beauchamp & Allen law firm with Commonwealth attorney John R. Allen. They lived on Versailles Road, one quarter mile west of Lexington.

In 1886 Frances Beauchamp joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Lexington and was soon elected local president. In the fall of that year Beauchamp took on the work of the WCTU corresponding secretary for Kentucky. The following year she was appointed superintendent of juvenile work for Kentucky. Her work focused on prison reform and lobbying for a state-funded juvenile detention center. In 1897, in part due to her efforts, the legislature established the Kentucky House of Reform at Greendale on a 200-acre tract off Georgetown Road to the north of Lexington. Several hundred children, ages 8 to 21, were sent to work on the farm and in its rock quarry. According to Kerr's History of Kentucky, Beauchamp intervened when an eight-year-old boy in Garrard County was sentenced to the penitentiary, helping win his pardon. It took several more years of lobbying work before the state created a separate House of Reform for girls with women on the board of directors. WCTU members cared for adult prisoners as well as juveniles, bringing flowers and treats to the jails on “Flower Mission Days.” They also offered classes and post-incarceration transition services.

In March 1890 Beauchamp was elected president of the Kentucky Woman's Christian Temperance Union which she led (for all but one year, 1894-1895) until her death in 1923. Her first speech, which served as a cornerstone for her future political work, was so dynamic that it inspired the immediate formation of another Kentucky local union. According to the WCTU biography of Beauchamp, this first speech served as a cornerstone for her future political work. She focused on a bill promoting Scientific Temperance Instruction in the schools and the need to elect public school trustees who professed their support for temperance. Beauchamp served as the editor of the WCTU state publication, The White Ribbon, using her own funds to cover printing costs when necessary. In 1894 she was elected one of the two national recording secretaries and became a vice president of the National WCTU.

Beauchamp was a hands-on leader, and she established close relationships with WCTU women in her state, allowing the organization to grow significantly. In 1887 there were less than ten local chapters of the WCTU in Kentucky. During her presidency, the number of Kentucky chapters rose to over three hundred. Kentucky children were also organized into Loyal Temperance Legions which would rally at the polls during voting season with banners and songs to promote social purity, and to support those candidates who were friendly to the cause.

In the fall of 1896, during a WCTU meeting, Katherine Pettit of Lexington and Beauchamp raised the idea of establishing a settlement school in eastern Kentucky. They first convinced the Union to partner with the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs to send a traveling library to several cities. In 1899 Solomon Everidge formally requested that Pettit and her partner May Stone establish a school in Hindman. With a donation from Frances Beauchamp of $2500 to launch its endowment fund, the Hindman Settlement School opened on August 5, 1902, and for thirteen years it prospered as the “WCTU School.” Besides providing vocational training, the school sponsored gospel meetings and monthly WCTU meetings. This was the first rural social settlement school in the United States.

As Beauchamp's commitment to social reform deepened, so did her belief that women needed the vote. Beauchamp encouraged the Kentucky WCTU to create a Franchise Department but she met with resistance. In 1892, she finally won on this issue, and she wisely chose Laura Clay to serve as the new department's superintendent. When the legislature granted school suffrage to women in Lexington, Newport and Covington in 1894, Beauchamp brought her extensive network to join with the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs (KFWC) and the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) to make sure that women registered and voted in school board elections. She mobilized both white and black women, bringing National WCTU President Frances Willard to Lexington in 1895 to speak at St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church. The organizational power of Lexington's black women grew rapidly in these years, so much so that in the fall of 1901 they out-numbered white women in registering to vote for the upcoming Lexington School Board election. Black Republican women's enthusiastic turnout threatened the liquor lobby as well as the incumbent Democratic Party leaders and led the Kentucky General Assembly to revoke partial suffrage. Beauchamp continued to lobby for school suffrage, and the combined action of the WCTU, the KFWC and KERA helped win back the right for educated women in 1912.

Beauchamp's efforts produced other important victories. In 1903 the WCTU helped to pass a “local option” bill, allowing communities to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages if voters so chose. Though the WCTU promoted the ban as an outward show of piety, Beauchamp and other temperance leaders aimed to undermine the established male culture, including male-defined spaces like saloons where the business of electoral politics often occurred. In 1906, local option was extended to the county level. By 1907, 95 of 119 counties had voted to go “dry.”

Beauchamp stepped further into the male realm of politics by chairing Kentucky's Prohibition party for ten years. She continued, despite disagreements with another prohibitionist organization, the Anti-Saloon League, to lobby state and federal legislators to support a constitutional prohibition amendment. Beauchamp's work as a WCTU leader at the state and national level assured ratification of the 18th Amendment.

Soon after her husband died in 1906, she moved into town where she bought a fashionable two-story home at 449 West Second Street. She continued her work with young men, teaching a Bible class at the Second Presbyterian Church and housing a University student in return for on-going maintenance at the house. Beauchamp died at the home of Minerva Collins Wellington in Geneva, New York on April 11, 1923. Beauchamp had given a speech on March 27 to the Geneva WCTU. According to the WCTU's lengthy obituary, Wellington had been “like a daughter” to her. The Kentucky WCTU chapter held a “large company Flower Mission Day at the state penitentiary” in their leader's memory. Beauchamp's funeral in 1923 at the First Presbyterian Church featured national celebrities including Charles R. Jones (chairman of the executive committee of the Prohibition Party) and Anna Gordon (world president of the WCTU). She is buried in Lexington Cemetery next to her husband and near her parents.


“Beauchamp, Frances E. (Mrs. James H. Beauchamp), Lexington, Ky.,” 87-88 in Woman's Who's Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. Edited by John W. Leonard. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914. [LINK]

“Beloved Leader of Kentucky W.C.T.U. Translated to Life Immortal,” The Union Signal (April 19, 1923): 9. Frances Willard Memorial Library and Archives, Evanston, IL.

“Frances E. Beauchamp,” 102, 177-78 in Report of the Crusade Anniversary Convention of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Held in Memorial Hall, Columbus, Ohio, September 7-14, 1923. Hathi Trust Digital Library. <>.

“Frances Estill Beauchamp,” 138-139 in William Elsey Connelley and E.M. Coulter, History of Kentucky, Vol. III. Judge Charles Kerr, ed. Chicago and New York: The American Historical Society, 1922.

Andersen, Lisa M. F. The Politics of Prohibition: American Governance and the Prohibition Party, 1869-1933. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Appleton, Thomas H., Jr. “Beauchamp, Frances (Estill),” 63 in The Kentucky Encyclopedia. John E. Kleber, ed. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.

Bettez, David J. Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016.

Bowles, Sarah Jordan. “Troublesome Inventions: The Rhetoric of the Hindman Settlement School, 1902-1927.” Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 2008.

Chamberlain, Adam, Yanus, Alixandra B.; and Pyeatt, Nicholas. “The Connection Between the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party,” SAGE Open (October-December 2016): 1-8.

Marilley, Suzanne M. “Frances Willard and the Feminism of Fear,” Feminist Studies 19 (Spring 1993): 123-46.

Parker, Alison M. “'Hearts Uplifted and Minds Refreshed'” The Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Production of Pure Culture in the United States, 1880-1930,” Journal of Women's History 11 (Summer 1999): 135-58.

Stoddart, Jess. Challenge and Change in Appalachia: The Story of Hindman Settlement School. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.

“Table 2.-Juvenile Delinquents Enumerated, June 30, 1904, Classified by Sex, Color, and Nativity, for Institutions and for States and Territories,” 252 in Prisoners and Juvenile Delinquents in Institutions, 1904. Special Reports. Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1907.

Tasker-Brady, Deborah. “The Hindman Settlement School: An Historical Case Study of Experimental Education in Appalachia.” D.Ed. dissertation, Fielding Graduate University, 2018.

Tyrrell, Ian. Woman's World, Woman's Empire: The Woman's Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

“Woman Prohibitionist Wins: Mrs. Beauchamp Defeats Calderwood for National Secretary,” New York Times (14 July 1912): 11.

Woodring, Patsy. “A Glorious Past & A Promising Future: A Brief History of the Kentucky Woman's Christian Temperance Union 1880-1995.” [n.p.], 1995. Frances Willard Memorial Library and Archives, Evanston, Illinois, 1995.

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