Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Emor Lutheran Calkins, 1855-1933

By Emma Schuren, student, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI

Delegate for Indiana Chapter of Woman's Christian Temperance Union, Superintendent of Institutes in Indiana, President of the Central Union in South Bend, Indiana, Vice President of state in Indiana, President of the Michigan Chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (1905-1926) Lansing, Michigan, Honorary President of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (1926-1933) Lansing, Michigan

Emor Lutheran (E.L.) Capron was born on October 3, 1855 in Ashford, New York. She was the seventh child of twelve born to Joseph and Mary Capron. Emor was a schoolteacher in New York before moving to Indiana. Once in Indiana, E.L. met Earle Calkins and the two married and later moved to Battle Creek, Michigan in 1895. They then moved again to Ypsilanti, Michigan with this becoming their permanent home. Earle and Emor had three children when they were settled: Glenadine, Gladys, and Mildred (Mildred only lived to 11 months). In Indiana, Emor Calkins joined the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), and in 1905 became the President of the Michigan chapter of the WCTU. Calkins used her newfound power to advocate for prohibition until her death on January 24, 1933.

Before moving to Michigan, E.L. Calkins was involved in women's rights organizations in Indiana. It was in Indiana where E.L. Calkins first went to a WCTU meeting, eventually joined the union, and was sent as a delegate for the Indiana chapter of WCTU. Calkins writes that this is, "where, for the first time, I heard women debate social, moral, and political problems" (Snow, 17). The next year E.L. Calkins was elected superintendent of institutes. After this, Emor's husband's work led them to move to South Bend, Indiana where she was elected President of the Central Union. She was later elected Vice President of the state. In 1894, Emor was in charge of managing the suffrage movement meeting at Fatzinger Hall in New York, where Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Mary Seymour Howell were speaking. These three suffragists were trying to eliminate the word "men" from the Constitution.

Once moving to Michigan, Calkins was the President of the Michigan chapter of the WCTU for 21 years. The WCTU promoted Prohibition, and although E.L. Calkins focus was on state and nation-wide Prohibition, she was also "interested in all problems that help in human advancement and work for civic righteousness" (Snow, 20). Under E.L. Calkins presidency the WCTU had two main goals they wanted to accomplish. The first was to make it illegal to purchase alcohol or consume it. The second goal was to remove all of the male words and pronouns from the constitution. The 1906 amendments to the constitution did not include either of these changes the WCTU were after. After E.L. Calkins became President of the Michigan WCTU, she ran for the board of regents ballot under the Prohibition ticket, though she was not elected. Calkins, in 1907, helped create an anti-cigarette bill, which, after being edited and again passed, is still a law today. In 1911 Calkins introduced a state-wide prohibition bill that was later never passed into law.

Emor Calkins was fairly well known during this time period because she gave speeches on these important issues, even speaking at the Saratoga Convention in 1908. It was said that she was very good at giving speeches as demonstrated by the women of the WCTU, "[E.L. Calkins's speech] was broad, statesmanship-like, masterly, listened to with the most earnest attention and accepted with a rising vote of thanks" (Howard, 1912, p. 90). In 1918 Calkins brought the full weight of the WCTU in Michigan behind the woman suffrage referendum that year. In 1928 E.L. Calkins attended her last convention, which was the convention for the World Woman's Christian Temperance Union in Switzerland. She was mentioned in several newspapers of the time including the Ellicottville Times, Springville Times, and since she was born in New York, her obituary was published in the New York Times. After her death, Calkins's daughter Glenadine Calkins Snow wrote a book titled A Picture of my Mother [Oct. 3, 1855-Jan. 24, 1933], which is about E.L. Calkins's life.


"Emor Lutheran Capron Calkins (1855-1933). Find A Grave. Accessed November 19, 2019.

Discover New York State ...Suffrage. Accessed November 19, 2019.

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922). [LINK to MI state report]

FamilySearch. Accessed November 19, 2019.

Howard. "Brief History Containing Important Official Action of Michigan Woman's Christian Temperance Union / Compiled by Mrs. J. P. Howard [I.e. Mrs. P. J. Howard] ... Copy 1." HathiTrust, 1912.

Snow, Glenadine Calkins. A Picture of My Mother; Oct. 3, 1855-Jan. 24, 1933. Place of publication not identified, n.d.

Springville. "A LOOK BACK: The WCTU." Springville Times, News, Entertainment, Events, skiing, golf, mountain biking, March 8, 2017.

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