Biographical Sketch of Lucy A. "Daisy" Burke

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists 1890-1920

Biography of Lucy A. "Daisy" Burke, 1871-1952

By Caryn E. Neumann, Associate Teaching Professor, Miami University of Ohio

Suffragist, Washoe County, Nevada

Daisy Burke, an activist for children, helped Nevada women obtain the right to vote by working with the Washoe County Equal Franchise Society and serving as vice president of the Society's successor, the Woman Citizens' Club in 1914. She was born Lucy Antoinette Holcomb on October 21, 1871 in the Truckee Meadows valley of Reno, Nevada as one of the eleven children of pioneer ranchers Grove Holcomb and Sarah Lyell Holcomb. On November 28, 1895, she married Charles Hamilton Burke (1868-1944), a native of Liverpool, England, one of Reno's early day blacksmiths and a property developer for whom Burke's Addition in Reno was named. A Baptist, Burke bore eleven children, three of whom died before reaching adulthood.

Identified in the suffrage records as Mrs. C. H. Burke, her motives for getting involved with the suffrage movement are unknown. However, it is possible that she saw women's suffrage as a means of protecting children. A contemporary noted that Burke did not want to work with an organization unless children were involved. No argument worked particularly well in Washoe County. The Reno Evening Gazette, the leading Republican newspaper in the state, fiercely objected to extending the ballot as did liquor interests. Suffragists hung banners, put up posters, and took out newspaper advertisements of maps showing Nevada as the last "black spot" for women's suffrage in the West. In November 1914, Washoe County voted 1,449 in favor and 2,047 against women's suffrage with Reno, the county seat, voting 938 in favor and 1,587 against. Rural counties provided the critical votes to win the ballot.

In the immediate years after Nevada women could vote, Burke served as an officer of the Woman Citizens' Club and worked to extend the required amount of residence for those from other states seeking divorces from six months to a year. The revision proved short-lived, however, with six months quickly restored. Burke shifted her interests away from explicitly political organizations by 1920. Displaying a remarkable amount of energy, Burke served on the Washoe County Red Cross board, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) board, and four garden clubs. She promoted Reno's first flower shows, playgrounds, and state parks. Burke was active in Reno's Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Mother's Club of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority (between 1917 and 1937, at least one of her children was enrolled in the University of Nevada), and the Order of the Eastern Star. In 1931, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt established a Mother's Day Committee, sponsored by department store J.C. Penney's Golden Rule Foundation to help dependent mothers and needy children. Within two years, committees were in most states and the American Mothers organization had formed to promote the ideals of motherhood. In 1947, Burke became the national Gold Star Mother of the Year for her lifelong efforts on behalf of children. One of Reno's best known residents by the end of her life, Burke died on April 20, 1952 following a long illness and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery. Burke's home, known as the Charles H. Burke House, at 36 Stewart Street in Reno, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984 for its association with her husband, who built it in 1908.

Sources:

Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI. New York: J.J. Little and Ives, 1922 [LINK]

Austin E. Hutcheson, ed. "The Story of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Campaign: Memoirs of Anne Martin," University of Nevada Bulletin, vol. 42, no. 7 (August 1948): 1-17

Megg Mueller, "The 19th Amendment Gave Women a Voice, and an Obligation," Nevada Magazine, (Jan-Feb 2020) https://www.nevadamagazine.com/issue/january-february-2020/12180/

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