Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Carrie McKenney Henry, 1878-1954
By Kyle Jackson, graduate student, University of California, Berkeley
Carrie McKenney Henry was a leading figure in Louisiana's suffrage movement. As president of the Shreveport Equal Suffrage League (est. 1913, of which she was a charter officer), Mrs. Henry was an ardent and active speaker and organizer in her community. She was involved in the effort to pass a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution, as well as the ultimately unsuccessful fight to make Louisiana the deciding vote in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In subsequent decades, she remained a prominent member of a local women's voting club, the Parent Teacher Association, Daughters of the American Revolution, the Christian Science Church, and several other organizations attached to local educational and religious institutions.
Born in Amite County, Mississippi, January 18, 1878, Carrie McKenney met and married John Lewis Henry, of Monroe, Louisiana. She gave birth to a son, John L. Henry, Jr., in 1905, a daughter Elizabeth, a year later, and a second daughter, Carolyn, in 1911, while living in Monroe. In 1913, the growing family relocated to the town of Shreveport. Her life was nearly cut short in July of 1914 when her house caught fire and she barely escaped the flames by jumping out of her second story window. After recovering from her burns, Mrs. Henry resumed her activism and set about building a network of committed suffragists in her adopted home of Shreveport, where she lived out the rest of her life.
By 1918, the Shreveport Equal Suffrage League was well-established, with headquarters in a tent on Court House Square that was open to the public daily. The League lobbied prominent local leaders for support of the statewide push for a suffrage amendment, with Mrs. Henry serving as treasurer of the organization at that time. She also apparently had sway within her own home, as her spouse was quoted in an article in the local paper titled "What the Husbands Think" as saying that "Women should have the ballot, for I regard women not only as the equals but as the superiors of men in many respects. They pay taxes and raise the children, so should have equal political rights."
Over the next three years, as she rose to president of the League, Carrie Henry spoke on behalf of women's voting rights in civil society settings ranging from The Mother's Club of the Central Kindergarten, to the mayoral parlor at City Hall, to the local Rotary Club. In a speech at the latter organization's meeting in April 1920, Mrs. Henry spoke of "the assistance women have given men in their various tasks of life, and how they had shared in social, religious, educational, and other problems," arguing that it was obvious and "useless to explain that women are entitled and prepared to have the ballot." She continued her plea for support, insisting that "We only ask that we may help you to do the things that will help make a bigger and better city, state and country." She went on to make the case that women voters would be effective advocates for women's and children's issues, especially those dealing with education.
Although Louisiana ultimately voted against ratification, the national momentum was unstoppable. In the years that followed the constitutional amendment, Mrs. Henry continued to serve as a leader in the political and educational worlds of Shreveport. After the dissolution of the Suffrage League, she was a founding officer of the Caddo League of Women Voters, which continues to this day as an active branch of the statewide organization. She remained a prominent figure in the Louisiana Parent Teacher Association, receiving a lifetime pin in 1948. Carrie McKenney Henry passed away after a long illness on January 29, 1954. She was survived by one son, J.L. Henry, Jr., and two daughters, Carolyn Henry Williamson, of Shreveport, and Elizabeth Henry Hemphill, of Monroe, Louisiana.
Harper, I. H. (ed.). The history of woman suffrage, volume VI: 1900-1920. (1922) [LINK]
"Rotarians Receive Suffrage Messages At Friday Luncheon," The Shreveport Journal (Shreveport, Louisiana), April 30, 1920, p. 1.
"Mrs. Carrie Henry Dies Here Friday; Rites on Sunday," The Shreveport Journal (Shreveport, Louisiana), January 30, 1954, p. 14.
"Special Page Devoted to the Home Circle," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), 19 November 19, 1913, p. 6.
"Saves Life By Jumping," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), July 28, 1914, p. 3.
"Votes For Women," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), October 24, 1918, p. 3.
"What The Husbands Think," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), November 3, 1918, p. 22.
"Meetings and Entertainments For To-Day and This Evening," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), December 11, 1919, p. 4.
"Woman's Interests," The Times (Shreveport, Louisiana), September 30, 1920, p. 4.