Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Nellie Spyker, 1860-1948
By Heaven Smith, Instructor of History, Louisiana State University, Alexandria, Alexandria, Louisiana
Member of the State Equal Suffrage League
Nellie Spyker was born Nellie Crowell Wright on April 18, 1860 in El Dorado, Arkansas to parents, John Crowell Wright and Mary Alabama Wright. Her father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate States of America Army during the American Civil War. Nellie had three siblings, Mary Wright, James Newton Wright, and Pattie Wright Mahony. In an 1884 Arkansas Democrat newspaper clipping, announcing Spyker's intent to marry a "prominent" young man, George Armour Spyker, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she is described as "charming." The two wed on November 12, 1884 in El Dorado, Arkansas at Nellie's father's home and afterward moved to Louisiana. The couple had three children together, Nella Wright Spyker, Alla Joy Newton Spyker (later Cabell) and George Gilmer Spyker. Nellie's husband, George Spyker, died on April 5, 1920 at the age of 67 in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. Nellie Spyker died on February 2, 1948 at the age of 87 in Covington, Louisiana in St. Tammany Parish.
In the early twentieth century, Spyker enrolled as an undergraduate student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and became heavily involved in its extracurricular activities. Women first entered the University as students in 1905. Nellie Spyker was among some of the first undergraduate group of 31 women to attend the University in the 1906-07 academic year. Upon entering LSU, Spyker joined LSU's Reveille newspaper staff as an associate editor, being only one of two women to do so at the time. In the June 1906 edition of the University Bulletin, Louisiana State University Catalogue and Announcements, Spyker is listed as an associate editor of both the Reveille and of the Gumbo, LSU's yearbook. In the 1907 edition of the Gumbo yearbook, Spyker is listed as a Co-Educational Representative and as an artist for the yearbook. In this edition, she is also listed underneath the 'Special Students' heading. In the 1908 Gumbo edition, Spyker is listed as a Café Co-Ed. In the 1909 Gumbo, Spyker is referenced in a short story titled "A Co-Ed Vision" written by Lucille McKowen. The story is a fictional account with a hopeful future for women of the University. Nellie is listed as the Chancellor of the University and as having obtained a BA, MA, Ph.D., D.D., and L.L.D., a testament to her academic ability. The work and others throughout are notably inspired by the wave of feminism building up to the struggle for women's rights in the United States. Many of the women writers called attention to their negative treatment by the male members of the faculty. Finally, Spyker's last mention at LSU is in the 1909 University Bulletin and Louisiana State University Catalogue and Announcements, where she is listed as President of the Co-Educational Club.
The point at which Spyker transitioned from student life to a more political role is unclear. However, she is no longer mentioned in the Gumbo yearbooks after 1909. Presumably, she had graduated after four years at the University. She then appears again on the record as a member of the State Equal Suffrage League in Louisiana. Mrs. A. B. Singletary organized the State Equal Suffrage League in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in March 1913. Prior to this, Louisiana did not have a state organization for women's suffrage. It is clear from Spyker's entry into Louisiana State University, as one of the first women to do so, and from her heavy involvement in extracurriculars there, she was a supporter of women's equality in education. From her involvement in the State Equal Suffrage League, her vision of equality expanded to politics, where she joined other notable women in the struggle to achieve women's suffrage.
Anthony, Susan B. and Ida Husted Harper. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. IV (1883-1900). Rochester, N.Y., 1902. LINK
Death Certificate for George Spyker, 5 April 1920, Louisiana State Department of Health and the City of New Orleans, Department of Health. Vital Record, Vol. 9, Page 4063. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Death Certificate for Nellie W Spyker, 2 February 1948, Louisiana State Department of Health and the City of New Orleans, Department of Health. Vital Record, Vol. 2, Page 805. Louisiana State Archives. Microfilm.
Garay, Richard. The Manship School: A History of Journalism Education at LSU. Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge, LA, 2009.
Geni. "Nellie Crowell Spyker." Geni.com https://www.geni.com/people/Nellie-Spyker/6000000046180659936
Geni. "George Armour Spyker." Geni.com https://www.geni.com/people/George-Spyker/6000000046180379934
"Local Brevities." Page 2. Arkansas Democrat. 29 October 1884. Little Rock, Arkansas.
Louisiana State University. "LSU History." LSU.edu https://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/archives/lsu-history
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, "Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1906" (1906). Gumbo Yearbook. 6. http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/6
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, "Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1907" (1907). Gumbo Yearbook. 9. http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/9
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, "Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1908" (1908). Gumbo Yearbook. 8. http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/8
Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, "Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1909" (1909). Gumbo Yearbook. 11. http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gumbo/11
Phillips, Faye and Sylvia Frank Rodrigue. Images of America Baton Rouge. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC, 2008.
University Bulletin. Louisiana State University Catalogue, 1908-1909; Announcements 1909-1910. Baton Rouge, LA. Series VII. No. 1 Published by the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College at Baton Rouge, 1909.
University Bulletin. Louisiana State University Catalogue, 1905-1906; Announcements 1907-1907. Baton Rouge, LA. Series IV. No. 2 Published by the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College at Baton Rouge, 1906.