Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lillian "Lilla" Reeves Crawford, 1855-1936
By E. Brooke Phipps, Graduate Student, University of Maryland College Park
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 22, 1855, Lillian "Lilla" Reeves was one of at least six children born to Mark Reeves and Eliza A. Cox Reeves. At some point after the U.S. Civil War, the family relocated to Washington D.C. When Lilla was seventeen years old, her father died and was buried in Washington. Four years after her father's death, she married a young man named George Douglas Crawford. They were married in the District of Columbia on January 6, 1876. Between 1876 and 1900, Lilla and George had four children-- Blanche, Mary, John, and "Markie." By 1900, the Crawford family moved to Hagerstown, Maryland.
It is in Hagerstown that Lilla Reeves Crawford became involved as a leader within the suffrage movement. According to the Hagerstown Morning Herald, the local women's suffrage community formed a Just Government League in 1914. Sixty women were a part of this initial meeting that met in a home in town. Based on the ongoing periodical coverage from the Hagerstown Morning Herald, the Just Government League also went by the name the Woman Suffrage League. This organization was affiliated with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) through its connection to the Maryland Woman Suffrage League, and acted as one of the many regional chapters of NAWSA.
In 1916, Hagerstown was the site of a large suffrage convention. Crawford had been elected as the president of the Woman's Suffrage League organization in Hagerstown earlier that year. In collaboration with suffragists from every county in the state of Maryland, Crawford planned the convention, which included sessions, mass meetings, and meals where suffrage supporters gathered to discuss the current state of the suffrage movement.
In January 1918, the House of Representatives created a Committee on Woman Suffrage, which met to hear the case for extending the right of suffrage to women. A legion of suffragists, many of them representatives of various NAWSA chapters, wrote letters and telegrams to advocate the case for women's suffrage. Crawford sent a telegram to Representative John E. Raker stating, "The 84 members of the Washington County Woman Suffrage League Branch of Woman Suffrage League of Maryland, affiliated with N.A.W.S.A., urge your committee to report the suffrage amendment favorably." She signed the telegram as the President of the sixth congressional district of Maryland.
In addition to her leadership role in Hagerstown, Crawford also worked with for the ratification of the federal amendment in Maryland. Maryland's ratification of the Federal Amendment was put in peril in 1920 due to Judge Oscar Leser suing the state to remove the names of two women from the list of registered voters in Baltimore. The case was eventually heard in the United States Supreme Court, but the suffragists engaged in pro-ratification campaigns amidst the court proceedings. The suffrage headquarters in Annapolis launched a major campaign that was spearheaded by noted Maryland suffragist Elizabeth King Ellicott, and Crawford served as treasurer for the campaign.
Sometime after 1930, Lilla Crawford moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There she lived until February 25th, 1936, when she passed away at the age of 80.
The records of Lilla Crawford's birth, marriage, childbirth, and death information were drawn from the following sources: The Washington County Maryland Marriage Index, 1861-1849, the 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1930 United States Federal Census records, the District of Columbia Marriage Records, 1810-1953, and the Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1963. Reports of Lilla's activism came from both periodical and historical collection sources. The Western Maryland's Historical Library has digitized local newspapers in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Hagerstown Morning Herald, which covered both the Just Government/Women Suffrage League and Lilla Crawford's election as the president, is a part of this collection. Specifically, the articles included "Suffrage Movement Reaches Hagerstown," October 10, 1914, and "Suffragists in Convention Here," April 27, 1916. Crawford was also listed as "Mrs. George Crawford" in the History of Woman Suffrage. The telegram sent to Senator John E. Raker is available through the Extending the Right of Suffrage to Women Hearings... on H.J. Res. 200... Jan. 3-7, 1918 committee notes. Her telegram was sent and received on January 4, 1918.