Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Laura Baker (Mrs. John) Schnarr, 1869-1954
By Lindsey Perritt, student, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina
Florida State Equal Suffrage Association, treasurer; Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children, President; Daughters of the American Revolution, Regent
Laura Baker was born on November 14, 1869 in Illinois to Mary E. Trevelyan and William Joseph Baker. Laura was the eldest child with two brothers Hosea Henry Baker and Joseph Chester Baker. Laura married George Byron Gilliam on September 13, 1887. Laura and George had two daughters, Hester and Ruth, between 1888 and 1890. She also married John Schnarr of Orlando, Florida, a prominent businessman on January 5, 1912. John Schnarr died on October 28, 1919. She lived in Orlando, Florida until her death.
Her husband John Schnarr was prominent in the citrus industry. John had a successful pesticide company in Orlando where the couple lived. Both were active in the fight for women's suffrage. Before their marriage John circulated a petition to Congress for a Federal Suffrage Amendment in 1907 in Orlando. In 1913 Laura participated actively as treasurer for the Florida State Equal Suffrage Association. The Federation of Women's Clubs in Florida had supported the movement and women from the organization attended national meetings in Chicago and St. Louis. Laura Schnarr could have been present at these meetings. Laura was also active in the Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children as the President in the Orlando chapter. Laura was also the Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
On November 11, 1924 Laura gave a speech at the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the World War. The monument still stands today, and is located in South Lake, Florida. She gave another speech on Armistice Day, 1929.
Laura Baker remained in Florida living in different locations sometimes with her daughters. Her main point of residence was in Orlando, Florida were she died on October 17, 1954 at the age of 84.
Presentation Speech of the Dedicated Monument, 1924
Madam Regent, members of the Orlando Chapter D.A.R. and fellow Citizens:
Deep down in the human breast is the desire to live; but it was written that it was appointed once unto man to die.
Because of the fact that man was born to die, there has grown up an almost twin desire; the desire to perpetuate the lives of men and women who have splendidly lived; who have achieved. To mark the spots where the noble deeds were enacted, and where great lives have been lived.
This desire had become a custom even in the earliest records of the progress of humanity. Jacob marked the spot where he wrestled and conquered; the silent Sphinx and the stupendous pyramids tell the story. The beauty of Greece and the power of Rome live alike in story and stone from the everlasting hills.
The people of the United States share this heritage. The Minute Men at Lexington and Concord; the monument at Bunker Hill; Ethan Allen at Ticonderago; the spire towering to the memory of the only Washington; the beautiful memorial to the Immortal Lincoln; the humble marker in the farthest of the little churchyards which dot our countryside. All these testify that we are prone to keep their memory green.
The Patriotic citizens of Orange County share this common heritage. Four years ago as Regent of the Orlando Chapter D.A.R. it was my fondest hope that some suitable memorial should be placed to the memory of the boys who gave “to the last full measure” in the great World War. The matter was brought before the chapter, a committee was appointed, some work was done, but it was with deep regret that I saw the year close with the project not achieved.
The see, however, did not fall in stony ground. A few months ago I was asked to take the chairmanship of a committee to put over the undertaking. With the faithful work of my committee, Mrs. John Abbergerand, Mrs. W.C. Mclean, coupled with the helpful suggestions and encouragement of our Regent, Miss Frances Gregory, and the splendid help from the interested and patriotic citizens of Orange County, I am able to present to you the finished work of the committee.
Spirit that bade these heroes dare
To die and leave their children free;
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The stone we place to them and thee.
Armistice Day Speech, 1929:
Dear Friends, The weather man has been most kind in allowing the rain and the sky to clear, thus permitting so many of us to gather here on this the eleventh anniversary of the signing of the Armistice which really was the end of the Great World War, and brought us peace.
In gathering here many may ask ‘Why have we'? We meet for various reasons, and many times for no reason at all. And before we answer the question that has been asked, let us take a backward look. We are told by men and women who have had the time and the inclination that in all the world's history we have actually had only about five hundred years of world peace. Universal peace, when nowhere in the world a country was at war with any other country.
And this universal peace came in intervals, of a few years each scattered along the way of a war-scarred world. Say ten years, twenty, maybe fifty at a time, but it was hardly to be hoped for a longer period of peace at any one time. And when one thinks of the countless ages since the records of man began and before this five hundred years not only seems, but is only the tick of the clock in comparison with all the years of horror, of bloodshed, of broken bodies, to say nothing of the destruction of property and broken hearts.
To these many, many years of war our own fair land has made it contribution. We have always, almost boasted, and we hope honestly, that we have always fought for principle. Let us see. During Colonial days there were wars, and wars, as you all know. Wars in defense of life and home. Others because the mother countries across the sea quarreled, the struggling little colonies had to take sides with mother. Then the War of the Revolution, fought in defense of and to uphold the Declaration of Independence. This war fought to the successful close by the colonists gave us a place as free men in the world.
This war over, the young republic struggling along, with its many problems, and settling some of them, was challenged by Great Britain, questioning our right upon the high seas. The young republic, gritty as ever, accepted the challenge and demonstrated to the satisfaction of Britain herself that though we had no right there she could not keep us off. Later when Texas declared herself independent of Mexico, set herself up as a republic, and asked to be annexed to the United States, we became embroiled with the Mexican Government. This war lasted from 1845 to 1847. At the close either by treaty or purchase the U.S. acquired all the great Southwest. Our territory then extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific. From the Great Lakes to the Mighty Gulf.
In the early sixties came the deplorable and lamentable war between the States. It was fought for the preservation of the Union, and resulted in the freeing of the slaves of the south, ending in 1865.
From that time on with the exception of one hundred and thirteen days during which a state of war existed between this country and the monarchy of Spain, when this country intervened after the destruction of the Maine, in behalf of struggling Cuba, we were at peace with the world for many years.
To be sure we had a small standing army, and a small navy. But we had almost forgotten that ‘man learned war anymore'. On our broad rivers; on our vast prairies; in our gigantic forests; in the rich mineral deposits man carried on the world's work almost believing that ‘swords had been beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks', so far as this nation was concerned anyway. And more especially here in this great Midwest, so far removed from the seat of government, so far away from the marts for foreign goods, and cities for the influx of other peoples, we, indeed had a great sense and feeling that no harm could come to us.
It is true that we read of war, and sometimes heard the rumblings from Europe, but like the people who had lived at the foot of the mighty volcano, who heard the rumblings and saw its smoke, but thought and said, ‘What of that? The mountain has never harmed anyone? Indeed, how can it harm anyone'? We said how can a war over there hurt us? So in our contentment we basked.
But over there the volcano became more and more restless as the years went by. Every effort was made to prepare for war. Why? All were suspicious. The very atmosphere was tense, and a state of expectancy was everywhere apparent. Expecting what? Something to happen? One day something did happen. A man was killed a way off. The volcano burst forth. The World War was on.
Still the average man and woman, especially those as has been said, in the Great Midwest, far removed from the coast and from the seat of government felt that it could not harm us. But Time and Change had in many ways bound the world so closely together that we soon learned that what affects one must necessarily affect all. The powerful enemy, carrying its ruthless warfare into neutral countries, was destroying the lives and property of neutral citizens until patience was no longer deemed a virtue. Still our president halted until the patience of the nation was somewhat tried.
Then came the sinking of the Lusitania, when the lives of hundreds of our citizens were sacrificed. Woodrow Wilson, president of this United States had the dream, or the vision, that he could keep this nation out of the war, in fact, it had been a sort of slogan, during the second campaign. But now he saw his dream vanish like mist before the sun, and at his desk, looking up into the face of the immortal Lincoln, he said in the words of Martin Luther, ‘I can do no other'. And we were in.
You all know the story of the days that followed. First the enactment of the Draft Law; putting it to work; the drawing of the names; the registration of the boys; and all the rest of it. Then came the days of the going away. The first contingent; the second contingent, and the third and so on. Those were terrible days, for all who had known peace all of our lives, many had been touched by the Spanish-American affair, more had scraped lint during the terrible days of the sixties, but really they seemed quite removed. But here was this thing upon, not only on us, but the entire world.
But other sad days were to come besides the going away days. We hardly saw the boys go than we saw them begin to come back. Many came back to us ill; many lame; many maimed in mind as well as body; some blind, and some in flag-draped caskets. These lie buried today the length and breadth of this beautiful land. From Arlington, where lie the great of this land, women as well as men, back to the humblest little churchyard in districts most remote.
Ever honoring those who come back to us, and carrying bravely on, but who have so little to say of the honor and glory of war keeping in mind those who linger in hospital wards, whose lives are over but are not dead, we come especially on this day to render a just and tender tribute to those of our boys of all our wars, who gave to the last full measure, and came back in this last contingent.
The Dedicated Monument which still stands today. Credits: https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/2821
Picture of Ann Laura Baker Gilliam (it is unclear whether she sits at the right or the left)