Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Nellie Kimball Murdoch, 1870-1955
By Stefanie Francisco, Communications Director, Conservation Alabama
Nellie Lynn Kimball was born in Boston in July of 1870 to J.C. and Ellen Kimball and was educated at Bradford Academy in Massachusetts. Kimball married William Lincoln Murdoch in Atlanta on April 8, 1891. The Murdochs resided in Birmingham and had five children, three of whom survived to adulthood. The family attended the Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, a progressive institution in the city.
Nellie Kimball Murdoch's primary focus was reforming child labor laws in Alabama. Serving as the chair of the Alabama Child Labor Conference, she led repeated efforts to abolish child labor in the state. She lobbied the Alabama state legislature in 1903, 1907, 1915, and 1919 to raise the minimum age for employment and require the improvement of working conditions. In 1915, Murdoch successfully campaigned for a new child labor law in Alabama, which fixed the minimum age for employment at 14 and ultimately led to the creation of the Alabama Child Welfare Department in 1919.
Murdoch also worked to reform conditions for women workers in department stores. She secured chairs for the women working behind counters so they did not have to stand all day, as well as improved restrooms. The saleswomen of the Loveman's department store in downtown Birmingham presented her with a silver goblet in recognition of her efforts on their behalf.
Murdoch saw women's suffrage as a strategic way to build a base of voters who would support labor reform for children and women, which prompted her to become involved in the suffrage efforts in Alabama. Birmingham was a hub of suffrage activity in the state, and Murdoch was one of the founders of the Birmingham Equal Suffrage League. Murdoch worked alongside Mrs. Solon Ruffner Jacobs and Mrs. Oscar R. Hundley to create the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association to spread the message of women's suffrage beyond Birmingham, creating and supporting other suffrage organizations throughout the state.
Murdoch also served as the corresponding secretary for the National Conference of Charities and as an executive board member for the Conference of Women and Child Labor. She was a board member for the Industrial School for Girls, Mercy Home for Children, and the Southern Sociological Conference.
Murdoch died November 22, 1955, and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Labor Legislation of 1915." Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, vol. 1, no. 1. 1915. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41842714?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. Accessed November 3, 2017.
Causey, Donna R. "Can You Believe It Took This Long for Alabama to Ratify Women's Right to Vote?" Alabama Pioneers, http://www.alabamapioneers.com/can-you-believe-it-took-this-long-for-alabama-to-ratify-womans-right-to-vote/. Accessed November 2, 2017.
Elinor Murdoch Interview. 1977. Mervyn H. Sterne Library. University of Alabama at Birmingham. http://contentdm.mhsl.uab.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/oralhistory/id/413/rec/7. Accessed November 3, 2017.
Flynt, Wayne. Alabama in the 20th Century. The University of Alabama Press, 2006.
Leonard, John William, editor. Women's Who's Who in America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada: 1914-1915. The American Commonwealth Company, 1915 [LINK].
"Nellie Kimball Murdoch." Find A Grave, https://www.jstor.org/stable/41842714?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. AccessedNovember 2, 2017.
Sallee, Shelley. The Whiteness of Child Labor Reform in the New South. University of Georgia Press: 2004.