Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lide Meriwether, 1829-1913


MERIWETHER, Mrs. Lide, author and lecture, born in Columbus, Ohio, 16th October, 1829. Mrs. Meriwether's parents resided in Accomack county, Virginia, and it was during a temporary sojourn in Columbus their daughter was born. Her mother dying a few days after her birth, Lide was sent to her paternal grandparents in Pennsylvania. Setting forth in her seventieth year to earn her own living, she and her only sister, L. Virginia Smith, who afterwards as L. Virginia French became one of the best known of Southern authors, went as teachers to the Southwest. Almost ten years after that practical declaration of independence, an act requiring much more hardihood forty years ago than now, Lide Smith was married and settled in the neighborhood of Memphis, Term., where, with the exception of a few years, she has since remained. There she lived through the war, passing through the quickening experiences of four years on the picket line with three young children. After the war she led a simple home life, devoted to husband and children, to the needs of neighbors and to personal charities, of which she has had a large and varied assortment. Though a reader and living in a rather literary atmosphere, she scarcely began to write until forty years old, nor to speak, a work for which she is even better fitted, till she was over fifty. The duties which came to her hand she did in a broad and simple way, while the thought of another work, which must he sought out was growing and her convictions were ripening. Then, when, as she says, most women are only waiting to the, their children reared and the tasks of the spirit largely ended, began for her a life of larger thought and activity. While many of her poems are imaginative, her prose has been written with a strong and obvious purpose. Her first literary venture, after a number of fugitive publications, was a collection of sketches, which came out under the name of "Soundings" (Memphis, 1872), a book whose object was to plead the cause of the so-called fallen women, a cause which both by her precepts and practice the author has for years maintained. In 1883 she published, as a memorial of her sister, who died in 1881, a volume of poems, "One or Two" (St. Louis), her sister's and her own alternating. But Mrs. Meriwether's real call to public work came less than ten years ago from a friend in Arkansas, who demanded that she should go and help in a Woman's Christian Temperance Union convention. She went and found, to her surprise, that she could speak, and she has been speaking with growing power and eloquence ever since. Almost immediately after going into the field she was elected president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Tennessee, a post which she has continued to fill by the unanimous vote of its members, Under her leadership and remarkable executive ability the union has grown greatly in size and undertakings and has seen stirring times, having gone through the arduous fight for constitutional prohibition, in which they came much nearer victory than they had anticipated. From her interest in the temperance work naturally grew up a still more ardent interest in woman suffrage, of which league also, she has become State president, and to which she has devoted her ablest efforts. On both subjects Mrs. Meriwether is a fine speaker. It was her breadth of character which won her instant recognition, in her first notable speech before the National Woman Suffrage Convention, as being of the same stuff as the old leaders of the movement.

back to top