Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lillian Huffcut, 1860-1946
By Donna Greene, independent historian
Lillian Huffcut was born around the time of the start of the Civil War, about 12 years after women gathered at Seneca Falls, NY, and the push for women's suffrage began. For much of her life, she resided in nearby Binghamton in Broome County (about 100 miles from Seneca Falls). How specifically that influenced her is not documented but can be inferred: her activism helped ensure passage in 1917 of the amendment to the New York State Constitution allowing women to vote.
Lillian Huffcut was born in either 1860 or 1861 in Connecticut, the daughter of Ambrose and Luzina (Wilson) Huffcut. Her brother, Ernest Wilson Huffcut, was an accomplished lawyer, dean of the Cornell University Law School and a legal advisor to the New York governor. In 1907, he committed suicide on a boat and because he left a note for his sister, she was thrust into the public limelight in a way she never was as a suffragist.
The letter, widely quoted in newspapers, said in part: “I left for Ithaca tonight but decided to take my body down to you in New York in order that it may be cremated. You will attend to that for me.”...Good-by. I don't want you or any of the others to be troubled about this.” He also left her the bulk of his estate.
Her name may not be otherwise well-documented in newspaper archives, but references to her numerous leadership roles can be found. In 1913, the New York State Woman Suffrage Association held its Convention in Binghamton and she was certainly a part of that. And this in turn led to other things.
Gerald Smith, the Broom County historian, refers to her as one of the “local leaders in the movement” in a 2017 posting on Pressconnects.com:
“One of the results of the 1913 convention in Binghamton was the engagement of the political system that would lead to a vote in 1915 to add an amendment to the New York State Constitution that would give the right to vote to women. What now sounds like a no-brainer failed. Only five counties voted in favor of the amendment — and Broome County was one of those.”
[The amendment failed that year, although it was endorsed in Broome County. It was adopted by the state in 1917. ]
He further wrote:
“It was not a unanimous movement. In the fall of 1915, the Binghamton Press ran a series of opinions from women about the suffrage effort. Many were in support of the need to change the law, but others could not agree that the right to vote should be extended to women. Lectures were held on both sides at the Monday Afternoon Club on Court Street.
Here are some of Lillian Hufcut's other leadership roles:
She never married and is buried with her family at Floral Park Cemetery in Johnson City. On Nov. 6, 2017, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo of Binghampton, a member of the state Suffrage Anniversary Committee, visited Huffcut's grave, part of a public event to honor two local Binghamton suffragists.
“Broome County played a critical role in the statewide suffrage movement,” said Assemblywoman Lupardo, as quoted in a 2017 post on her website. “Placing flowers on these women's graves is a small gesture of appreciation.”
Around the same time in 2017, Broome County created the Women's Suffrage Trail, which includes a stop at 63 Street/John Avenue Binghamton, the meeting place for the 6th district that Huffcut headed and the location of some of her suffragist activities.
Lillian Hufcut's name is included among 67 New Yorkers added to a plaque adjacent to the National Role of Honor monument in Washington D. C. that commemorates various suffragists.
New York Times archives including
Gerald Smith (telephone interview Dec. 27, 2018) and as quoted in https://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/connections/history/2017/09/28/broome-county-leader-womens-suffrage-movement/714640001/
- 1916, she became the director of the 6th Campaign District, New York State Woman Suffrage Party.
- In 1918, she became a member of the state executive committee of the Women's Suffrage Party. (Note: the name of the party changes in various references from woman to women's, etc.)
- In 1919 she became the director of the executive committee of the New York State League of Women Voters.