Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Julia Blackburn Duke Henning, 1875-1961
By Allison B. Cruise, graduate student: University of North Carolina - Greensboro
Julia Blackburn Duke Henning of Louisville, Kentucky was born July 23, 1875 and died July 7, 1961 after being bedridden for four years. Julia was something of Confederate royalty in Kentucky. She was the child of Henrietta Morgan Duke, sister of famed raider John Hunt Morgan, and Confederate General Basil Wilson Duke. She married Samuel Cowan Henning, an investment banker with Henning-Chamber & Company in 1897 and together they had four children, Henrietta H. Henning, Julia D. Henning, James W. Henning and Basil D. Henning. She attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania from 1893 to 1895 where she majored in French.
Her political involvement could be said to have begun when she was still a child, when in 1883 she recited The Bivouac of the Dead to a reunion of Morgan's Raiders.
Henning's personal interest in suffrage coincided with its growing popularity in Louisville during the nineteen-teens. The city hosted the 1909 Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) convention, leading to a rapid increase in suffrage activity in the Derby City. According to her response to a 1961 alumnae survey submitted to Bryn Mawr College, Henning's involvement in the Woman Suffrage Association of Louisville (LWSA) began in 1911, the same year the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) met there. The death of her husband in 1913 may have also propelled her suffrage work. She proudly reported that she was an "active worker" for the cause and her involvement bears that out. The 1914 KERA minutes identify Henning as president of the LWSA. The same year, she was appointed auditor for KERA, a position she held until 1916, when she became chairman of congressional work. As congressional chair, she divided Kentucky according to its eleven congressional districts and directed efforts to win Kentucky lawmakers over to the cause. In 1916, Henning also served as Kentucky's representative to the NAWSA executive board.
Unlike many of her KERA colleagues who supported a state by state approach to wining the vote, Henning enthusiastically supported a federal suffrage amendment. In 1917, after NAWSA asked KERA to put state organizing on hold in order to support national president Carrie Chapman Catt's "Winning Plan," Henning presented a minority report arguing that KERA must follow national directives and forego a state campaign. In opposition to the proposed majority report, she stated: "Believing that the women in Kentucky are not ready to enter any campaign for a State Amendment for woman suffrage, I object to this resolution as embodying the best interests of our suffrage cause and move it be stricken from the platform." Laura Clay, co-founder and first president of KERA, was in favor of the state-level campaign, and she blamed the Louisville board members for standing in its way. In 1919, Henning joined other suffragists lobbying in Washington on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. She reported to KERA that she found "the Southern Congressman very open minded."
From 1920 to 1921 Julia Henning served as the first president of the Louisville League of Women Voters. Her political involvement did not end then. In 1924, as official spokesman for the National League of Women Voters, she addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee arguing against the National Women's Party's proposed Equal Rights Amendment. She stated that the organization did not support the Equal Rights amendment as it was "vague and sweeping" and would "imperil existing laws which women need," notably protective labor legislation.
As late as 1930 Julia Henning remained involved with the National League of Women Voters, acting as the chairman of the Louisville convention committee. Outside of politics, she served on the Board of the Frontier Nursing Service, as a member of the Women's Auxiliary at Advent Episcopal Church, and a member of the Filson Club, now named the Filson Historical Society, of which her father was a founding member. The Filson houses some of Julia's papers in their collection.
Upon her death in 1961, The Courier Journal wrote that she "disdained personal publicity" and thus "the present generation probably has little idea how much Louisville and Kentucky, and in particular Louisville and Kentucky womanhood, owe to her."
"A Great Lady, Also A Great Citizen." The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky], June 9, 1961. Available upon request from Bryn Mawr Special Collections. https://www.brynmawr.edu/lits/library-help
Allen, Ann Taylor, "Biographical Sketch of Virginia Robb (Mrs. Robinson A.) McDowell." Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States.
Document 27: "Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Arguments Against the National Women's Party Amendment," Life and Labor Bulletin, XI. March 1924, 2-3, Periodicals on Women and Women's Rights, Series 2. Included in Sklar, Kathyn Kish. Who Won the Debate over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1920s? Binghamton, NY, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2000.
Henning, Julia. "1961 Bryn Mawr Alumnae Survey." March 8, 1961. Available upon request from Bryn Mawr Special Collections. https://www.brynmawr.edu/lits/library-help
Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Report of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Owensboro, Kentucky. 6-8 November 1914. Special Collections, Margaret I King Library, University of Kentucky. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt78cz325071
Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Report of the Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Lexington, Kentucky, 8-10 November 1915. Special Collections, Margaret I King Library, University of Kentucky. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt74mw28cr50
Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Report of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Louisville, Kentucky. 15-16 November 1916. Special Collections, Margaret I King Library, University of Kentucky. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt70vt1gmg8v
Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Report of the Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Ninth Annual Conventions of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Lexington, Kentucky. 30 November--1 December 1917 and 11-12 March 1919. Special Collections, Margaret I King Library, University of Kentucky. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7w3r0pvw3d
"Mrs. Samuel Henning, Civic Leader, Dies." The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky], June 8, 1961, 27. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/11576729/june_8_1961/
National League of Women Voters. "Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 9." March 1930, 2-5. Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 Database*. https://search.alexanderstreet.com/view/work/2602215
"Personal." The Austin Weekly Statesman, [Austin, Texas], August 2, 1883, 2., Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. Of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86088296/1883-08-02/ed-1/seq-2/
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Ida Husted Harper, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Susan B. Anthony. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6. New York: Fowler & Wells, 1881, 215. LINK
*Photo of Mrs. Samuel Henning on page 6 of this Bulletin
Image of Henning is snipped from "Financing the Oversea Hospital," The Woman Citizen (20 July 1918): 153. Available online via HathiTrust.org.