Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920
Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Marie Louise Graham Bankston, 1850-1922
By Hallie Borstel, Independent historian
Marie Louise Benton was born around 1850 in East Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana. Her parents, Warren Magruder Benton and Marie Louise Royall, were not native to the Lake Providence area. Royall was Warren's third wife. Her father was from Kentucky and her mother from Kentucky or Texas. Marie Louise had a sister, Sarah (called Sallie), who was several years younger. They had older half-sisters from Warren's first two marriages, as well.
Marie Louise grew up on a large plantation her father owned called Woodstock, located on the Mississippi River just south of the town of Lake Providence. However, during the Civil War years Marie Louise and Sallie spent time in a convent in Louisville, Kentucky, where their father believed they would be safer. Marie Louise also received a higher education there, studying at Nazareth Academy (Nazareth College).
Marie Louise married her first husband, Frank Garner, in 1871 in East Carroll Parish. They had one son, W. Benton Garner, who died when he was a teenager. During this marriage, Marie Louise became involved in journalism, writing for the local newspaper and then founding the paper the Carroll Banner in 1885. Through this work, she became involved in the Louisiana Press Association. She spoke at many of their meetings, on topics including the influence of women in literature, "the press as an educator," and the temperance movement.
Marie Louise married her second husband, a publisher named Lewis Graham, in the summer of 1889 and moved south to New Orleans. A second marriage for both of them, Marie Louise and Lewis did not have any children together but adopted a daughter whom they called Marie Louise. Marie Louise Graham died at the age of six in 1905. Lewis died less than two months later. Marie Louise remarried for a third time in 1911, this time to the much younger Marion Roger Bankston. Marie Louise did not fully relinquish the Graham name upon her marriage to Marion, sometimes calling herself "Mrs. Graham-Bankston."
It was during her marriage to Lewis Graham that Marie Louise first became actively involved in the suffrage movement, a cause which she continued to champion throughout the rest of her life. She joined the Portia Club, a club devoted to getting women the right to vote, in about 1895. By 1900, she was a member of the Era Club, an offshoot of the Portia Club. She chaired the local chapter of the National Woman's Party, and eventually was a member of the National Advisory Council.
Marie Louise was extremely active in a variety of other causes and social clubs besides women's suffrage. She was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, where she worked to get better funding for the Soldiers' Home and served as the historian; the Daughters of 1776-1812, of which she was president of the local chapter and in charge of selling thrift stamps during World War I; the Ladies' Confederate Memorial Association, where she was elected to the position of corresponding secretary; and the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she was the chairman of receptions. She was also involved with the National Farm and Livestock Show, acting as the director of the women's division in 1916 and the director of ethics and fair expansion in 1917. Throughout her adult life, she worked in writing and publishing, producing her own book on local Civil War history in 1914 entitled Camp-Fire Stories of the Mississippi Valley Campaign. Though she did work towards equal rights for women and to bettering the lives of veterans, she also spoke out against the education of African-Americans on at least one occasion.
Marie Louise died after a brief illness in October 1922. She is buried in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans.
1860 U.S. Census
1880 U.S. Census
1900 U.S. Census
1920 U.S. Census
"About the Carroll Banner," Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88064239/.
The Colfax Chronicle (Colfax, La.)
Louisiana Marriages, 1718-1925 [database], Ancestry.com
Louisiana Statewide Death Index, 1819-1964 [database], Ancestry.com
McFarland, A, "Map of plantations in Carrol [sic] Parish, Louisiana and Issaquena County, Mississippi," https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4013e.la000252/
New Iberia Enterprise and Independent Observer, (New Iberia, La.)
The New Orleans Item (New Orleans, La.)
Pinkston, Georgia Payne Durham, A Place to Remember: East Carroll Parish, La. 1832-1976, (Claitor's Publishing Co., 1977).
Richland Beacon, (Rayville, La.)
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.)
The Weekly Thibodaux Sentinel and Journal of the 8th Senatorial District (Thibodaux, La.)
Woman's Enterprise (Baton Rouge, La.)
The New Orleans Item, 6 August 1916, p. 7.(See image below.)