Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Emma Landcaster, 1860-1925

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, SUNY Binghamton with contributions by Jean M. Ward, Professor Emerita of Communication, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon

Emma H. France was born in 1859 or 1860 in Alabama and by 1864 she was orphaned, residing in a contraband camp occupied by Union troops along the Mississippi River, in Helena, Arkansas. Major General Buford, commander of the troops, arranged with the Indiana Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends for the establishment of an orphan asylum to care for the numerous homeless youngsters at the camp. Calvin and Alida Clark, "devout Friends, strong abolitionists, and devoted Republicans," volunteered to set up what became the Helena Orphan Asylum. Three years later, the asylum and its associated school had moved to an 80-acre site some 9 miles from Helena in Phillips County. Over time, the school expanded and took the name, Southland College, continuing through the 1920s under the sponsorship of the Indiana Yearly Meeting.

One of the first orphans whom the Clarks took under their wing was 5-year-old Emma France. The 1870 census shows 11-year old Emma living in a group household headed by Calvin and Alida Clark, the superintendent and matron of the school, and 14 other students. With the departure of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1869, Southland focused on a Normal course to train black teachers and, by 1874, the school had "put sixty teachers 'in the field.'" Emma France was among the first graduates in 1876 and continued to live at Southland, where she worked as a teacher, helping to fulfill "Matron Clark's dream of `seeing the school conducted by colored teachers' who were Southland graduates."

Living nearby in the household of Amasa and Lydia Chace, two New England Quakers who came to Arkansas via Kansas, was Anderson Landcaster, a mulatto laborer originally from Kentucky. Amasa Chace was a physician and farmer, an active abolitionist earlier, and now an evangelist and temperance advocate. Lydia Chace became president of the Arkansas Woman's Christian Temperance Union and may well have influenced Emma Landcaster's later reform inclinations.

In 1885 Emma France married Anderson L. Landcaster and the couple settled near Southland, where Anderson worked as a mail carrier and Emma as a teacher. Her daughter Ruby was born in 1890 or 1891 and two other children died young. As a star graduate of Southland, Emma was invited back in 1885 to give the commencement speech, which she titled "Employment of Women." Alida Clark commented proudly on the speech in a letter written shortly after the event: "Emma's words, she said, should serve as a powerful demonstration 'to the men that women are their equals, and when allowed a chance, their superiors.'" Emma had a strong example of a committed feminist in her Quaker teacher, Alida Clark. It must have contributed to her Portland activism.

Emma became a devout Quaker and by May 1888 she was serving as clerk of the Southland Meeting of the Society of Friends. By 1901 the Landcasters had moved to Portland, Oregon, following Daniel Drew, a Southland graduate and "popular evangelist" minister in the period that

Emma France was a student and a teacher there. Drew was "recorded as a minister of the Society of Friends" in Southland in 1880 and he began ministering in the Oregon Yearly Meeting in 1901 and would have been there when Emma and Anderson arrived.

In Portland, Anderson found work as a truckman, a laborer, and, by the time of the 1910 census, a night watchman. The couple owned their house, free of a mortgage at 347 Marguerite Ave, a home they lived in till 1929.

Emma Landcaster's religious perspectives broadened in these years. She began as a member of the Southland Meeting and then the Oregon Yearly Meeting, a logical choice after spending at least sixteen years at Southland, with its Quaker sponsorship. But in 1907 Daniel Drew "transferred his membership to the African Methodist Episcopal Church," and a newspaper account indicates that Emma's daughter Ruby and Drew's son William spoke at a reception for the Pastor of that church, W.W. Matthews, in November 1909. Emma's connections in the AME church provided a basis for her growing activism in these years. Still, she did not give up her Quaker connections and at her passing in October 1925, her funeral was held at the First Friends' Church in Portland and her passing was announced in a Portland Quaker newsletter, Friendly Encounter.

Emma Landcaster's first evident political activity came in early 1912, at the start of Oregon's fourth suffrage campaign since 1906. The three previous campaigns had been defeated and Oregon's woman suffrage movement was sharply divided by the imperious leadership in these years of Abigail Scott Duniway. The proportion of votes for woman suffrage declined across the three failed campaigns from 44 percent to 37 percent. In 1912, illness kept Duniway in the background and a diverse coalition of groups came together in support of woman suffrage, including the state's farmers' organization, the Grange. One historian has counted 23 suffrage organizations in the Portland area in 1912 and another 8 "endorsing organizations." These included a Men's Equal Suffrage Club and the Portland Woman's Club, both endorsing woman suffrage. A broad coalition of groups emerged to back the campaign including Chinese American and Black suffragists. Out of staters joined the campaign as the absence of Duniway from active leadership encouraged activists from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) to lend their support. NAWSA president Rev. Anna Howard Shaw made an appearance in September. In the November vote, fully 52 percent supported woman suffrage, an increase of 15 percent over the 1910 tally.

In early 1912 members of the city's three black churches came together to form the Colored Women's Equal Suffrage League (CWESL), which played a significant role in Oregon's 1912 suffrage campaign. Emma Landcaster served as the League's vice-president, and a representative of the CWESL worked with white suffragists on the State Central Campaign Committee to coordinate the statewide effort that won women the vote in November. When the Central Campaign Committee issued proclamations on the eve of the election, they did so on behalf of "Presidents of all the suffrage organizations in Portland," which pointedly included the CWESL.

Emma Landcaster's activism continued after women won the vote. By September 1916 she was active in the Colored Women's Republican Club, speaking in support of Prohibition. In August 1918, at an event sponsored by the Rosebud Study Club, one of Portland's Black women's clubs, Emma was among those hosting Black inductees heading off for military service. She was also a member of the Lucy Thurman W.C.T.U, a colored branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union., serving in 1919 as secretary and also in charge of mothers' meetings and press work. Also active in the organization at this date were Katherine Gray and her married daughters, Ethel Gray Turner and Edith Gray Williams.

The Landcaster family prospered in Portland. In 1919 they added a garage to their home. The family did suffer a loss, though, with the death of daughter Ruby in October 1919 at the age of 28. Anderson continued as a night watchman in 1920 and the family took in two male lodgers from the South. One lodger was a cook on a Pullman dining car, and the other was a boiler maker in a machine shop, both well-paying jobs for African Americans in the North. The Portland City Directory recorded Emma in the household in 1921 and 1925, but she passed away in Portland on October 17, 1925 at the age of 65.

As a Black club member, suffrage activist, and Republican voter, Emma Landcaster became a leader in Portland's Black community. Born in Alabama and growing up in Arkansas, she was part of the Great Black Migration from the South, heading to Portland and other northern cities. Her exposure to northern Quakers at the Southland College and to their religious ideals provided a basis for her move and her embrace of a new citizenship status in Portland. As a citizen activist, she took on new roles and created a new world for herself, her family, and her community.


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.

Thomas C. Kennedy, "Southland College: The Society of Friends and Black Education in Arkansas," Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 42:3 (Autumn 1983), 207-38.

Thomas C. Kennedy, A History of Southland College: The Society of Friends and Black Education in Arkansas (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009).

Sophia Wellons, "Oregon's Colored Women's Equal Suffrage League and the 1912 Campaign," accessed online at

"Oregon Woman Suffrage History Month to Month," accessed online at

Federal Manuscript Censuses: Arkansas, 1870, 1880, and 1900; Portland, OR, 1910-1930. Accessed via

City Directory listings for Portland, OR, Anderson Landcaster, 1905-1941, accessed via Ancestry Library Edition.

Henry Cadbury, "Negro Membership in the Society of Friends (Part 3)," Journal of Negro History, 21 (1936), 151-213. Excerpts of this article are accessible online at

"Women's Activities," The Oregonian, Nov. 16, 1919, p. 10.

Obituary, Emma Landcaster, in the Morning Oregonian, Oct. 22, 1925, p. 21.

Oregon Daily Journal:

"Reception to Pastor," November 11, 1909, p. 9.

"Colored Women's Republican Club," 23 Sept. 1916, p. 3.

"Colored Women Served Own Draftees, 3 August 1918, p. 3.

Building permit notice, 5 Aug. 1919, p. 15.

Obituary, Ruby Landcaster, 27 Oct. 1919, p. 12.

Untitled, Friendly Endeavor, Nov. 1925, p. 4.

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