Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Olive Gilliam Leigh, 1882-1956

By Sydney Moore, student, Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, AR

Olive Gilliam Gatling was born in Arkansas in 1882 to parents John Williams Gatling and Elizabeth Gilliam Gatling. She was their oldest child and had six siblings--three brothers and three sisters.

Olive attended Randolph-Macon Women's College in Ashland, Virginia. She was a member of the Chi Omega sorority, serving as toastmistress. While attending Randolph-Macon College she worked as editor of the Tatler, the school newspaper, and was a member of the Young Women's Christian Association. She graduated in 1905 and moved to Little Rock.

By 1910, Olive was teaching high school English in Little Rock, and soon became politically active in the city. Olive served as a corresponding secretary of the American Federation of Women's Clubs. She also became involved early on in Arkansas's suffrage movement, when the Political Equality League was first organized in the capital city in 1911. She delivered one of several speeches at an evening hearing at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock, organized to convince state representatives there to support an equal suffrage resolution in Arkansas's legislature.

Later that same year, on August 23, 1911, Olive married prosperous businessman L.B. Leigh at her parents' home in Forrest City, Arkansas. By 1920, she had three daughters and a son. The Leighs were a prominent and high-profile Little Rock family, frequently honored at tea parties and social events, and enjoyed a comfortable household complete with a cook from New York and a butler.

Olive Leigh continued her political activism and community outreach. In 1914 she served on a committee to organize Arkansas's first state convention of the Political Equality League in Little Rock that took place in 1915. She worked with other women organizing events and canvassing for support of woman suffrage in Little Rock. She was a member of the Southern Association of College Women, president of the Randolph Macon alumni club in Little Rock, active in Little Rock's chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and active in neighborhood groups.

Mrs. Leigh died in 1956 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock.


Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock). April 22, 1912; February 25, 1920; February 19, 1922.

Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock). August 27, 1911, p. 12; September 24, 1922.

Cahill, Bernadette. Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns, 1868-1920. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015. Pp. 49, 107, 147.

Chi Omega Sorority, The Eleusis of Chi Omega. Volume 7. New York Public Library, 1905.

Find A Grave. Olive Gilliam Leigh, Mount Holly Cemetery Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. ID # 90325362, (accessed May 1, 2019)

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. Pp. 17-18, 22-23. [LINK]

U. S. Bureau of the Census. Population schedules, 1910, 1920, 1930. Pulaski County, Arkansas.

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