Lizzie Koontz Weeks


Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Lizzie Koontz Weeks, 1879-1976


By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton

Lizzie Koontz was born in the District of Columbia in 1879. We know nothing about her parents or her upbringing, but as a young adult in the District she assisted her brothers, who ran three cafes, "noted for their cleanliness, artistic arrangement and general business air." She visited a brother in Portland, Oregon in 1900 and never left. She married George W. Weeks in Portland in 1904 and joined the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1906.

The couple resided at 444 Benton St. and had no children as reported in Portland censuses. According to the 1900 census, George W. Weeks, born in Ohio, was a black, single boarder in Portland, who worked as a crockery packer. Ten years later he was a packer of glassware, married to Lizzie K. City directories place George in Portland as a packer as early as 1889. For two years in the early 1890s, he was listed as a porter for Charles Hegele & Co. Lizzie's first directory listings began in 1914 and she and George were still listed together as late as 1930 and 1931. They lived at 444 Benton St. from 1910 until at least 1931. By 1920 George and Lizzie owned their house free of mortgage and Lizzie's 18-year-old niece, Lizzie Koonce, lived in the household. Lizzie Weeks worked in a probation office in 1920. We cannot find the couple in the 1930 census for Portland, though they were living in the city at that time. Our latest source for the couple comes in the black weekly newspaper, The Advocate, on July 1932, describing a visit of a South Carolina family to the Weeks's "lovely house" at 444 Benton St.

Credit: Verdell A. Burdine & Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections & University Archives.

Scattered references in Portland newspapers provide glimpses of Lizzie Weeks's life. In 1913 Lizzie served as a local commissioner charged with developing plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, scheduled for late September 1913. She was a founder of the Colored Women's Republican Club in 1914 and was elected its first president. According to historian Kimberly Jensen, "At the conclusion of the meeting, the group went to the Multnomah County courthouse so that those who were not yet registered could do so." In the campaign up to the November election--the first national election when Oregon women could vote--the club "organized voter registration drives and candidate talks to inform Black voters about vital political issues."

A 1919 article profiled her as a "Portland officer of the Juvenile Court." She served as a matron at the Frazier Detention Home at the time, "being the first woman of color to occupy such a position." She was promoted from this position to work as a probation officer.

Several newspaper stories reported on her Portland social life and her employment. She and her niece Lizzie enjoyed Christmas dinner with friends in December 1923, according to the Chicago Defender. The black newspaper, The Advocate, noted in September 1924 that she entertained "fifteen attractive matrons" for a "five-course luncheon" honoring a visiting friend from Los Angeles. A Pittsburgh Courier article reported that Lizzie "has resigned her position at the Mei[e]r [and] Frank store upon the advice of her doctor." In a final reference, the Chicago Defender reported in January 1935 that Mrs. Weeks "is confined at home with a badly burned arm."

Mrs. Weeks surfaces again in Portland sources in February 1958 when the Bethel A.M.E. church conducted its last service in the church building on N. Larrabee Avenue. The site was purchased by the city and eventually was part of the project that built the Memorial Coliseum. Lizzie Weeks had been a church member for 52 years and, like many others attending the service, she must have had "mixed emotions" as the church contemplated the change. She was able to worship in the church's new quarters a year later. Lizzie Weeks passed away in Portland in September 1976 at the age of 97.

Lizzie K. Weeks. Verdell A. Burdine & Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections & University Archives.


Historic Black Newspapers of Portland, accessible online at

Kimberly Jensen, "'Neither Head nor Tail to the Campaign": Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory in 1912," Oregon Historical Quarterly, 108:3 (2007), 350-83.

Kimberly Jensen, "Lizzie Weeks (1879-1976)," in The Oregon Encyclopedia, accessible online at

Federal Manuscript Censuses: Portland, OR, 1900-1920. Accessed via

City Directory listings for Portland, OR, George W. and Lizzie K. Weeks, 1889-1931, accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.

Melissa Cornelius Lang, "Lifting as We Climb: African American Women Organizers in Portland, Oregon, 1912-1957," accessed online at

"Plan to Celebrate Emancipation Date," Oregon Daily Journal, 28 July 1912, p. 46.

"Colored Folk Join Republican Force," Morning Oregonian, Oct. 14, 1914, p. 14.

"Oregon," Chicago Defender, 26 Jan. 1924, p. A8.

"Portland, Ore.," Pittsburgh Courier, 28 Nov. 1931, p. A6.

Untitled, The Advocate, July 30, 1932, accessed online through Historic Oregon Newspapers.

"Oregon," Chicago Defender, 19 Jan. 1935, p. 20.

"Mrs. L. K. Weeks: Portland officer of the Juvenile Court," Portland Times Annual, 2 August 1919, p. 3, in Box 18, Historic Black Newspapers of Portland, Verdell A. Burdine & Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections & University Archives.

William Hilliard, "Methodist Church in E-R Center Site Holds 'Last Supper,'" Sunday Oregonian, Feb. 9, 1958, p. 31.

"Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (1889- )," accessed online at

Lizzie K. Weeks: death notice in Oregonian, Sept. 22, 1976; funeral notice in Oregonian, Sept. 23, 1976.


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