Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alice Barbee Castleman, 1842-1926

By Heather Qaddura, student, and Dr. Jennifer Walton-Hanley, faculty, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky

Alice Barbee Castleman was born to John Barbee, a former Louisville mayor, and Eliza Kane Barbee in Jefferson, County Kentucky on December 5, 1842. The Barbee family was an old Kentucky family with roots stretching back to the early settlement period. Alice was the oldest of six children. She married John Castleman, a Confederate officer, landowner, and businessman, on November 24, 1868, in one of "the most brilliant social affairs in the history of Louisville." Together the couple had five children, three sons and two daughters. The Castlemans resided at Castlewood, an estate on the outskirts of Louisville that featured thoroughbred stables and kennels for hunting dogs.

As a member of Kentucky's upper-class, Castleman participated in a variety of charitable and philanthropic endeavors and even held one of the coveted positions as a state representative on the 1893 Columbian Exposition Board of Lady Managers. She was a charter member of the Louisville Woman's Club, president of the board of the Louisville Training School for Nurses, and held memberships in the Woman's Auxiliary of the Board of Missions, Foreign and Domestic and the Louisville Outdoor Art League. She was the driving force in getting the local police force to add a jail matron. Castleman's biographer ardently praised her efforts saying she was always "on the alert to advance the cause of woman, she [was] progressive, cultured, and liberal in her views."

Beyond charity work, Castleman was active in promoting women's rights, including both local and state suffrage work. In 1910, as president of the Louisville Equal Rights Association, she presented its annual report at the KERA state convention held in Covington. While there, she heard Dr. Anna Shaw address the crowd and, presumably was so impressed what Shaw had to say that she proposed a resolution to invite the National American Woman Suffrage Association to hold its next meeting in Louisville. Shaw graciously accepted the invitation on behalf of the national organization. Castleman was largely responsible not only for bringing the conference to Louisville but for securing the hall and raising the money to pay for it.

The following year, Castleman was elected first vice-president of KERA. When representative Harvey Helm (Eighth District) agreed to introduce a petition to Congress in 1912, demanding that the Seventeenth Amendment (Direct Election of Senators) be worded to include women's suffrage, Castleman was one of the signers. She also headed KERA's Parade committee in 1913. She organized a suffrage demonstration at Louisville's Perry centennial parade to raise awareness for the cause. The event, featuring 1,000 women dressed in white and carrying banners, has been identified as the first public suffrage march in the south. Later, Castleman moved into a more limited role within the organization, but leaders continued to value the status and credibility her name provided. She was appointed, with her husband (long a supporter of suffrage), to serve on KERA's advisory committee in 1915.

Mrs. Castleman embraced her new rights after Kentucky ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. She served on the Kentucky Democratic Party's general committee in 1920. She was also one of 17 women chosen to attend the national Democratic convention in San Francisco.

Castleman died in 1926 at her home in Eau Gallie, Florida at the age of 84. She was interred at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.


Alice Barbee Castleman," Accessed April 5, 2017.

"General Castleman's Widow Succumbs at Florida Winter Home," Louisville Courier-Journal, February 6, 1926, 1-2.

"People Talked About," Peterson Magazine, vol 7 (June 1897), 613,

"The Outdoor Art League Has Dedicated Itself to Changing Squalor into Beauty," Courier-Journal, April 1, 1928, 94.

Frances Elizabeth Willard and Mary Ashton Rice Livermoor, American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with Over 1,400 Portraits: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century (New York: Mast, Crowell, and Kirkpatrick, 1897), 161. [link]

KERA Convention Minutes, 1910-1913, 1915,

"Richmond Honored: Two State Officers of Suffrage Association Reside in this City," The Richmond Climax, November 23, 1910, 1., accessed March 5, 2017.

"Women Will March in Parade," The Madisonian, September 30, 1913,, accessed March 28, 2017.

Helen Deiss Irwin, Women in Kentucky. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1979.

"In Charge Democratic Campaign," Breckinridge News, April 14, 1920, 6.

Alice Ormond Barbee Castleman" Accessed February 28, 2017.

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