Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Cleaves Lord (Cram), 1858-1919
By Shannon M. Risk, Associate Professor of History, Niagara University
Maine suffragist and temperance advocate
Sarah Cleaves Lord was born in Kennebunk, Maine, to Robert Waterston Lord and Mary Morse Mendum Lord, a prosperous shipping family that supported the Unitarian Church and the Republican Party. Her father, Robert, made his fortune after traveling to California and Oregon to engage in business during boom times in the 1840s. This allowed him to establish a prospering grocery back in Kennebunk, which led to large shipping interests. Cram's father served in both houses of the Maine State Legislature. Growing up in a temperance-supporting family, she worked simultaneously for suffrage and temperance in the late 1800s. She served with the Maine Woman's Christian Temperance Union (M-WCTU) as a corresponding secretary in 1883, when the M-WCTU held their annual meeting in her hometown. She presented a petition for women's suffrage from Kennebunk sent to the Maine State Legislature in 1887. Her suffrage petition from Kennebunk had 40 signatures from her community. Her obituary noted that she was a "state, county and town official for the WCTU, being widely known in temperance and suffrage work."
In 1888 she married Edwin James Cram, a Bowdoin College graduate like her father, and a lawyer, fifteen years her senior. She gave birth to a son, Robert Nathan Cram, in 1894. Her activism in the Maine WCTU continued in 1897, when she served as corresponding secretary of the state union. In her published report for that year, she wrote: "The failure to secure the Reformatory Prison for Women and the ballot was touched and, as surely as daylight follows darkness it is coming." In this capacity, Cram submitted annual reports to the National WCTU in 1891, 1893, and 1897. These reports provided detailed accounts of temperance work of the state union but no emphasis on woman suffrage. Had she continued in this position in the 1910s there is a good chance that one would have found more references to suffrage activity, which became more sustained in Maine in that decade.
She remained committed to temperance throughout her life. In May 1911 she presided at a statewide WCTU meeting in Old Orchard, ME. At the event she was elected president of the statewide organization. The last newspaper reference to Cram's WCTU activism came in July 1917 when the WCTU of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport met at her cottage at Lords Point.
The young Cram family appears in the Federal Manuscript Census for Kennebunk, ME in 1900, where it is noted that they owned their home free of mortgage. Edwin Cram passed away in 1906 and Sarah and son Robert appear in the 1910 census for Kennebunk, where she is noted as living on her "Own Income." She died in July 1919 in Kennebunk and is buried in the Hope Cemetery.
Annual Meeting of the WCTU, 1883. Kennebunk, Maine.
"Edwin James Cram." Hope Cemetery. Kennebunk, Maine. Findagrave.com. Accessed May 25, 2020.
Hope Cemetery, Kennebunk, Maine. News from Hope Cemetery & Woods. Fall 2015: 2. https://hopecemeterykennebunk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/HC-Newsletter-Fall-2015_FINAL.pdf.
Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Maine, Sixty-Third Legislature. Augusta: Sprague, Burleigh, & Flynt, 1887: 534.
Journal of the Senate of Maine, Sixty-Third Legislature. Augusta: Sprague & Son, 1887: 487.
Little, Thomas, editor. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1909: 2.
Lord, Robert Waterston. "Five Years in California in its Early Days." New England Quarterly vol. 11, No. 2 (June 1938): 287-307.
"Mrs. Sarah Lord Cram Dies at West Kennebunk." Boston Globe. July 6, 1919: 2.
Mystic Seaport Museum. Lord Family Collection. Manuscripts Collection, 140. https://research.mysticseaport.org/coll/coll140/.
Ninth Annual Report of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the State of Maine, September 1883, Held in the Unitarian Church of Kennebunk. Rockland, Maine: Courier-Gazette Press, 1883.
Risk, Shannon M. "'In Order to Establish Justice': The Women's Suffrage Movements of Maine and New Brunswick." PhD diss. University of Maine, 2009: 97-98.
"Sarah C. Lord Cram." Hope Cemetery. Kennebunk, Maine. Findagrave.com. Accessed May 25, 2020.
United States Census, 1860, 1870, 1880.
"White Ribboners," Rockland Courier-Gazette, October 2, 1897, p. 2.
"Women Will Wage Battle," Boston Globe, May 13, 1911, p. 6.
Federal Manuscript Censuses, Maine, 1900 and 1910. Accessed via HeritageQuest.com.
Proceedings of the National meetings of the WCTU in 1891, 1893, and 1897, accessible online in Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000.