Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Elizabeth McConaughey Wassell, 1859-
By Renee Pinkston, Ph.D. Candidate, Heritage Studies, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR
Daughters of the American Revolution Honorary State Regent, Member of the Political Equity League, Chairman History Committee of the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Center Committee
Elizabeth “Bettie” McConaughey was born on October 12, 1859 in Searcy, Arkansas and died in on November 29, 1923 in Little Rock, AR. Her father, James W. McConaughey, was an attorney and a Captain in the Confederate States Army; her mother, Albina McRae, was the sister of Confederate Adjutant General Dandridge McRae, who was a fellow attorney and friend to James McConaughey. After the deaths of her mother and father, Elizabeth was taken in and cared for by the McRae family. On April 8, 1878, Elizabeth married Samuel Spotts Wassell, a Cornell University graduate who worked as an attorney in Memphis and later Little Rock.
Mrs. S. S. Wassell, as she referenced in archival materials, was quite active in the political sphere of Arkansas and Little Rock during the 1910s and 1920s. She was a noted presence and speaker at the first National Suffrage May Day rally in Little Rock on the steps of the Old State House in 1914. She joined several other prominent men and women from the state speaking on women's suffrage and political rights in Arkansas. Apparently, Wassell had a significant amount of political clout in Arkansas as there is a letter in the Arkansas State Archives that serves as a request for her to write a note supporting a judge because of his past attitudes towards suffrage. She also was a regular contributor to the Daily Arkansas Gazette and was the lead writer for a column titled “History of Equal Suffrage Movement in Arkansas” in 1919, which documented Susan B. Anthony's visit to Arkansas in 1889 as well as the history and changes of women's political rights and suffrage in Arkansas over time. This two-part column ran on the front page of “The Woman's Page.”
Wassell was active in several social, cultural, and historical groups in Arkansas throughout her life. She served at the Vice-Regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution and was later given the status of Honorary State Regent. She was a member of the Daughters of 1812 and a founder of the J. M. Keller Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She was an active member of the Political Equality League and its study club, where she helped lead political debates on the topics of suffrage and women's political rights. She was also an active speaker for historical events and venues around the area; she once gave a talk on the Civil War for the Keller Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Wassell served as the Chairman History Committee for the Arkansas Equal Suffrage State Center Committee, the successor of the State Suffrage Organization initially founded in 1914 in Little Rock. Along with her numerous social and political appointments, she also served as the first female juror in Little Rock.
Elizabeth and Samuel Wassell had four sons, Frank, Samuel, James, and Herbert. Wassell died in 1923 and is buried beside her husband in Mount Holly Cemetery in Little Rock, AR.
Arkansas State Archives. Wassell Family Papers Collection Finding Aid. http://archives.arkansas.gov/research/browse-archival-collections.aspx?id=1455. Accessed February 6, 2019.
Arkansas State Archives. “Wednesday's Wonderful Collection – Wassell Family Papers, MS.000201”. From the Vault (blog). May 13, 2015. http://arkansasstatearchives.blogspot.com/2015/05/wednesday-wonderful-collection-wassell.html
Cahill, Bernadette. Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns, 1868-1920. Little Rock, AR: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, 2015.
City directories for Little Rock, Arkansas (1900-1930), Ancestry.com.
Find A Grave. Memorial Page for Elizabeth McConaughey Wassell (12 Oct 1859- 29 Nov 1923). Find A Grave Memorial No. 102539398. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/102539398/elizabeth-wassell Accessed February 6, 2019.
Harper, Ida Husted, el al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol VI (1900-1920). N.p: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
“Keller Chapter U.D.C.” The Guardian, November 10, 1917, 2. http://arc.stparchive.com/page_image.php?paper=ARC&year=1917&month=11&day=10&page=2&mode=F&base=ARC11101917p02&title=Arkansas%20Catholic Accessed February 6, 2019.
Mrs. S. S. Wassell, “History of Equal Suffrage Movement in Arkansas: An Account of the Patient, Persistent Efforts for the Emancipation of Women, From Pioneer Days to the Present.” Arkansas Gazette, February 9, 1919, p. 34. Accessible online at https://www.newspapers.com/image/145601764/?terms=arkansas%2Bgazette%2Bwassell The second half of the piece is found in the Arkansas Gazette, February 23, 1919, accessible at https://www.newspapers.com/image/145601072/?terms=wassell. Accessed June 1, 2019.
“Ohmer C. Burnside to Mrs. S.S. Wassell.” Wassell Family Collection, box 3, folder 23, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. http://ahc.digital-ar.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16790coll11/id/372/rec/1 Accessed February 6, 2019.
“Political Equality.” The Southern Guardian, September 5, 1914, 2. http://arc.stparchive.com/Archive/ARC/ARC09051914p02.php Accessed February 6, 2019.
Taylor, Paula Kyzer. “Women's Suffrage Movement.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=4252, accessed February 6, 2019.
The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. Ed. Miss Eliza Olver Denniston. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution: New York, 1913. https://archive.org/details/daughtersofameriv43daug/page/n6
"United States Census, 1860," database with images, FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M871-5N4 : 13 December 2017, Bettie Mcconaughey in entry for J W Mcconaughey, 1860.
Image 1. Elizabeth Wassell (McConaughey) photo from genealogical website profile. From Geni family profile page https://www.geni.com/people/Elizabeth-Bettie-McConaughey/6000000017117146051