Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth R. Canough, 1869-1944

By Karen Gibson, freelance writer, Norman, OK

Activist in the Suffrage movement

Elizabeth R. Canough was born in New York around 1869 as Elizabeth Radcliff to parents from England. She died at the age of 75 on January 14, 1944 in Syracuse, NY. Married in 1894 to attorney William F. Canough, she lived most of her adult life in Syracuse. Although the Canough's had three children, none lived past childhood.

As an educated woman, Canough was active in the New York State Woman Suffrage Party as the chairperson for the Fifth District in 1916. She was recognized in this position at the 1916 State Convention. She represented the Fifth District, comprised of the New York counties Cayuga, Jefferson, Madison, Oswego, and her own county of Onondaga. Canough also served as the President of the Syracuse Political Equality Club. She spoke often on women's suffrage in her leadership roles, including at a dinner recognizing pioneers of women's suffrage by the New York State Woman Suffrage Party on February 15, 1916.

Canough and her husband were active in the May Memorial Unitarian Church, named after minister Samuel May, an abolitionist and supporter of women's suffrage. May delivered a sermon on women's rights two years before the Seneca Falls convention and attended the first meeting of New York State Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.

In her support of political equality, Canough also advocated educating young people about suffrage. In 1914, she wrote to the Syracuse Board of Education about providing a program to Syracuse students for Suffrage Day on May 2. The program would be held at Clinton Square, or if the weather became a concern, moved to Lincoln Hall. The Senate had voted on March 19 on a federal woman suffrage amendment for the first time since 1869. Although the bill was defeated, it was decided to hold Suffrage Day on May 2. Parades, meetings, and events like the one Canough organized for Syracuse students were held in most states.

Women's suffrage remained close to Canough's heart even after women won the vote. She was a featured speaker at a 1930 meeting in New York City with the goal of planning a permanent memorial to women's suffrage. This was part of a nationwide celebration organized by the League of Women Voters to recognize the tenth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteen Amendment. Canough continued to support women in politics in her hometown of Syracuse as well.

During the 1930s and the Great Depression, Canough was a member of the Syracuse Housing Authority, a volunteer position in which she provided the same level of dedication as she had with suffrage. One issue that she focused on during her tenure was establishing minimum housing standards for Syracuse.

The New York State Woman Suffrage Party was a political organization and branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). It was founded by Carrie Chapman Catt to unite and organize efforts to gain suffrage. As a part of NAWSA, it was a precursor to the League of Women Voters, also founded by Chapman Catt after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Canough was an important voice in the movement which led to the state of New York granting women the vote in November, 1917. It was the first state on the east coast to grant women the full constitutional vote.


Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harder, eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). Rochester, NY, 1902, page 476. [LINK]

City directories for Syracuse, NY (1900-1930)

New York Death Index, 1944.

U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1900-1930.

“Clubs and Clubwomen,” Brooklyn Life and Activities of Long Island Society, 15 Mar 1930, Sat, Page 10.

“Men Supported Women's Suffrage,” New York Heritage Digital Collection.'s-suffrage

New York State Woman Suffrage Party, “Program: New York State Woman Suffrage Party dinner in honor of the Suffrage Pioneers and the State Chairman Mrs. Norman De R. Whitehouse. February 15, 1916,” Ann Lewis Women's Suffrage Collection, accessed February 1, 2019,

“Tentative minimum housing standards,” Imprint Syracuse, NY: Housing authority, 1936.

“Women of Protest,” Library of Congress Digital Collections

“Women's Suffrage,” New York State Library, Marcy 2017.

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