Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Louise Price Collier Willcox, 1865–1929
By Jaclyn Spainhour for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, a publication of the Library of Virginia. Reprinted with permission.
Louise Price Collier Willcox (24 April 1865–13 September 1929), author and woman suffrage activist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was the daughter of Mary Price Collier and Robert Laird Collier, a well-known Unitarian minister and writer. Following her mother's death in 1872 her father took his children to Europe, where they received their educations under private tutors in England, France, and Germany. In 1882 and 1883 she studied music at the conservatory in Leipzig, where her father served as the American consul. Her brother, Hiram Price Willcox, also became a popular Unitarian minister and later a noted writer.
In 1887 Collier joined the faculty of the Leache-Wood Seminary, a high-quality academy for girls, in Norfolk, Virginia. She married James Westmore Willcox, a Norfolk lawyer, in Brooklyn, New York, on June 25, 1890. They had one daughter and one son. Louise Collier Willcox, as she identified herself, became a prolific author, editor, reviewer, and translator. In 1900 she and Irene Kirke Leache compiled Answers of the Ages, a volume of quotations from famous people about God and faith. Willcox wrote essays, columns, criticism, and verse on a very wide variety of topics for various national magazines, among them Harper's Weekly, Harper's Bazaar, and the North American Review. Willcox regularly wrote for Harper's Weekly for more than a decade, and she was on the staff of the North American Review from 1906 to 1913, for part of the time as a book review editor. From 1903 to 1908, she was a manuscript reader for the Macmillan Company, and from 1910 to 1917 for E. P. Dutton and Company.
Willcox published several collections of her essays and poetry: The Human Way (1909), A Manual of Spiritual Fortification; Being a Choice of Meditative and Mystic PoemsMade and Annotated (1910, with a second edition in 1917 entitled A Manual of Mystic Verse), The Road to Joy (1912), and The House in Order (1917). She also edited an anthology of verse published as The Torch: A Book of Poems for Boys in 1924 that was reissued three years later with the title The Torch: A Book of Poems for Boys and Girls. In January 1912 she edited The Paper of Today, a single-issue supplement of the local Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, for the benefit of the Protestant Hospital of Norfolk. Well known during her lifetime, Willcox and her brother helped her friend Ellen Glasgow publish her first novel in 1897, and Willcox traveled to England with Glasgow in 1914.
Woman Suffrage Advocate
In her final Harper's Weekly column in August 1913, Willcox protested that she had not been permitted to write about what she regarded as "the greatest revolution that civilization has ever seen . . . the ultimate emancipation of women." Willcox argued, "Women must be so placed as to make free and unhampered choices in all lines of life, political, economic, domestic, occupational, before we can expect a true and normal development from them" and, as a result, from their sons. Like Glasgow and Virginia novelist Mary Johnston, Willcox supported woman suffrage. At the founding meeting of the Equal Suffrage League of Norfolk on 18 November 1910, she and Mary Johnston spoke, and she was elected an honorary vice president. Willcox later served as chair of the program committee, of the speakers committee, and during World War I of the vigilance committee. In 1911 she was a member of the legislative committee of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, of which she was later elected an honorary vice president. She attended most of the league's state conventions, speaking at those held in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, and 1916. At the 1912 convention that met in Norfolk, Willcox gave the first public reading of her poem, "The Freedom of Woman," and declared that women needed the right to vote so they could better secure clean air and water, municipal sanitation, improved working conditions, and the end of discrimination against women. Willcox made addresses in favor of woman suffrage in several Virginia cities and by 1916 had established a speaker's bureau for the Norfolk league, where she also provided training in public speaking for local suffragists. In 1915 she attended the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association as one of Virginia's delegates.
After World War I, Willcox exploited her mastery of French and German to publish English translations of several books, including Jean Giraudoux's My Friend from Limousin in 1923; Jakob Wassermann's Ulrike Woytich with the title Gold in 1924; Charles Derennes's The Sentimental Bestiary: The Life of the Bat in 1924; Ludwig Diehl's The Sardonic Smile in 1926; and J. Barbey d'Aurevilly's Bewitched in 1928. Before and after World War I, Willcox and her husband, sometimes accompanied by their children, travelled in Europe. By late in the 1920s she was suffering from prolonged illnesses. Louise Price Collier Willcox died of angina pectoris in Paris, France, on 13 September 1929 while she and her husband were visiting their son. She was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk.
Biographies in John William Leonard, ed., Woman's Who's Who of America, 1914–1915 (1914), 586, [LINK] and Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (1915), 3:281; self-reported birth date in passport application, 29 May 1924, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.; some correspondence and many references in Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Records, Accession 22002, Library of Virginia, Richmond, and references in Adèle Goodman Clark Papers, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; some correspondence published in Pamela R. Matthews, ed., Perfect Companionship: Ellen Glasgow's Selected Correspondence with Women (2005); Vera Connolly, "Louise Collier Willcox: Woman, Essayist, Philosopher," Delineator 85 (Nov. 1914): 18 (portrait); Norfolk Public Ledger, 5 July 1890 (marriage notice, with middle name of Price); Virginian-Pilot and Norfolk Landmark, 25 Oct. 1912 (with poem, "The Freedom of Woman"); Lynchburg News, 24 Oct. 1913; Harper's Weekly 57 (9 Aug. 1913): 5 (quotation); date and cause of death in Death Reports of U.S. Citizens Abroad, State Department Decimal File, 1910–1962, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, NARA, College Park, Md.; obituaries in New York Herald Tribune, New York Times, Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, and Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, all 14 Sept. 1929.