Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Edith Turner Benoist, 1878-1948
By Heather C. Plaisance, Head of Reference and Research Services, Edith Garland Dupré Library, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA
Edith Turner Benoist was born Edith Rebecca Turner on January 19, 1878, to Captain Thomas Theodore and Harriet Brown Turner in St. Louis, Missouri. She was one of five children. In 1899, she married banker and fellow St. Louisan, Eugene Lee Benoist in Washington, D.C. The couple had two children, son Louis born in 1899, and daughter Nancy in 1905. In 1912, she moved to New Orleans where her husband became President of the New Orleans Gas Light Company. By 1920, she was living in Washington, D.C. and later moved to Warm Springs, Virginia where she died on June 16, 1948, of a heart attack at the age of 70.
Benoist was heavily involved in the social scene in the cities in which she lived and regularly hosted gatherings in her home. In St. Louis, she gave her time to numerous causes including the Petit Salon d'Etrennes and the hospital donation drive for the city's sick and needy. Benoist served on the committee for the Open-Air Dramatic Festival to benefit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Free Ice and Pure Milk Fund that provided pure milk to impoverished babies. In New Orleans, she was the general chairman of the concessions committee for the Woman's Auxiliary of the Charity Hospital's orange blossom fete. As an associate officer on the Victory Food Commission, she joined the efforts to introduce a bread made of cottonseed meal to reduce the cost of bread in New Orleans. While in Washington, D.C., she was a member of the card party committee for the benefit of the Eastern Dispensary and Casualty Hospital. The daughter of a Civil War veteran, Benoist served as President of the District of Columbia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy from 1920 to 1921.
While active, Benoist's work in the suffrage movement was limited. In 1919, she contributed to the Fund for the Passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment. When Suffrage House, headquarters of the Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana was established in New Orleans in 1919, Benoist served on the board of managers as treasurer. As president of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Benoist represented the group at the Woman's Party Convention held in Washington, D.C. in February 1921.
In 1918, the Woman's Suffrage Party of Louisiana started a fundraising campaign to support the Overseas Hospital Fund that provided medical care to American troops fighting in Europe during World War I. Benoist's original playlet, The Beloved Thief, was shown at the Liberty Theater in New Orleans as part of the efforts to generate funds. The play was later shown at the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C. to raise money to provide servicemen with scholarships to complete their education interrupted by their deployment.
"Committee of the Open Air-Dramatic Fete." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 17, 1908, p. 5. Newspapers.com (Website).
"Committees Appointed. Prominent Women to Have Charge of Fort Concessions at Fete." Times-Picayune, May 21, 1915, p. 19. America's Historical Newspapers: Louisiana State Package (Database).
"Confederate Veterans Attend U.D.C. Reception." Evening Star, January 9, 1921, p.39. Newspapers.com (Website).
"The Day Among Local Theaters." Times-Picayune, July 23, 1918, p. 7. America's Historical Newspapers: Louisiana State Package (Database).
"Hospital Saturday: Contributions for the Sick Poor are Asked To-Day." St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 29, 1902, p. 16. Newspapers.com (Website).
"Mrs. Lee Benoist, Former St. Louisan Dies in Virginia." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 18, 1948, p.27. Newspapers.com (Website).
"Recent Founding of Suffrage House in St. Charles Avenue Most Interesting Event." Times-Picayune, February 10, 1918, p. 45. America's Historical Newspapers: Louisiana State Package (Database).
"Society Lends Hand at Salon to Help Sisters." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 28, 1909, p.13. Newspapers.com (Website).
"To Introduce the New Bread." The Assumption Pioneer, September 15, 1917, p. 2. Newspapers.com (Website).
Treasurer's Report. In "The Suffragist," Official Weekly, Organ of the National Woman's Party, February 1, 1919. https://archive.org/stream/suffragist07cong_2/suffragist07cong_2_djvu.txt.
"U.D.C. Arranges Benefit." Evening Star, May 18, 1919, p. 45. Newspapers.com (Website).
"Woman Delegates from 30 States Gathered Here for Suffrage Memorial Ceremonies and Party Convention." Evening Star, February 15, 1921, p. 2. Newspapers.com (Website).