Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lulah "Lou" Kinsley (Mrs. Horatio H.) Thomas,1868-1960
By Kayla Johnson and Parker Petruney, undergraduate students, Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, NH
Vermont Equal Suffrage Association: Secretary, Treasurer
Lulah C. Kinsley, who was known as Lou, was born on July 24, 1868, in Richford, Vermont. She was the daughter of Louisa Willard and William W. Kinsley. Lou Kinsley was educated through the sixth grade and could read and write. Her younger brother, John H. Kinsley, lived in Clinton, Massachusetts, and worked for the Boston and Maine Railway. On December 20, 1898, Lou Kinsley married Horatio Harrison Thomas, and they lived in Richford. Born in Canada, Horatio Thomas was naturalized on August 29, 1878, before marrying his first wife, Cora E. Gibson. He worked as a farmer and a dry goods merchant, and Lou Thomas worked as a telegrapher in 1900. In 1902, the couple had a son John Kinsley Thomas, who later married Beulah Ayer, and they had two children, Eleanor Lou Thomas and Carol Jean Thomas-Platt.
Lou Thomas lived most of her life in Richford alongside her family. The Thomases were prominent members of their community and participated in various aspects of community life. Horatio Thomas was president of the Farmers Club in 1916. The couple also owned a general store in town called the "H.H. Thomas Store" that sold food, clothing, furnishings, and other goods.
In 1916, Lou Thomas attended the twenty-second annual convention of the St. Albans District of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) in Enosburg. In addition, Thomas often held weekly Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) meetings at her house. Besides promoting temperance, the WCTU helped establish women's rights to vote and supported the protection of women and children at home and work.
In 1917, Lou Thomas was appointed treasurer for the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association (VESA). She held meetings at her home while she was involved in Vermont suffrage. At one of these meetings in January 1917, the Women's Suffrage Study Club was set to work on "The Vermont Constitution." In 1918, Mrs. Halsey W. Wilson of New York, treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, accompanied by Dr. Grace Sherwood of St. Albans, former president of VESA, visited Thomas at her home in the interest of the association's Vermont work.
In March 1919 at VESA's annual convention in Burlington, Lou Thomas spoke about "How the Vote Has Been Used." She stated that women had made more progress than their grandmothers had in four hundred years. In her speech, she said, "ignorance is the natural enemy of liberty and we must remember there will not be a free generation of great men until there is a free generation of free women." She was secretary of VESA in 1918 and was elected treasurer again in 1919.
In 1918 and 1919, Lou Thomas was the recording secretary of the Women's Club. In March 1918, she was also elected a town grand juror. The secretary of the Woman Suffrage Club in Richford, Edythe Domey Livingston, wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper not only discussing woman suffrage efforts but also commending that the local suffrage work was made more effective following Thomas's election.
On September 14, 1920, women in Richford voted in the town election for the first time, exercising their rights under the newly established Nineteenth Amendment. The first woman to vote was Lou Kinsley Thomas. In the 1920s, Thomas continued to be active in the local women's club, and she joined the efforts of the National Woman's Party. It is evident that during her life, Thomas cared deeply about women and played an active role to ensure that women were helped and heard.
In 1946, Lou Thomas, a widow, sold the dry goods store, and eventually, she moved to Burlington to be closer to her son and his family. Lulah "Lou" Kinsley Thomas died of hypertension at the age of 91, on April 6, 1960, in Burlington and was buried at Hillside Cemetery in Richford, Vermont.
"Burlington Women Favor Equal Rights." Burlington (VT) Free Press, July 23, 1924. Newspapers.com.
"City Clerk Transactions Involving 31 Buildings, 21 Lots." Burlington Free Press, March 16, 1946. Newspapers.com.
Death Notices. J. Kinsley Thomas. Burlington Free Press, May 10, 1977. Newspapers.com.
Find a Grave. Lulah C. Kinsley. Posted September 17, 2009. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/42081019/lulah-c-kinsley.
Livingston, Edythe Domey. "Woman's Political Mission." Letter to the Editor. Richford Journal and Gazette, March 8, 1918. Newspapers.com.
Local Mention. Richford Journal and Gazette, January 19, 1917. Newspapers.com.
Local Mention. Richford Journal and Gazette, October 19, 1917. Newspapers.com.
Local Mention. Richford Journal and Gazette, August 9, 1918. Newspapers.com.
"Missionary Society Convention." Richford Journal and Gazette, May 26, 1916. Newspapers.com.
"The Primary Election." Richford Journal and Gazette, September 17, 1920. Newspapers.com.
"State Convention." Caledonian-Record (St. Johnsbury, VT), March 14, 1919. Newspapers.com.
"State Suffragists in Burlington for Annual Meeting." Burlington Weekly Free Press, March 13, 1919. Newspapers.com.
"Town Meeting." Richford Journal and Gazette, March 8, 1918. Newspapers.com.
United States Census, 1870, s.v. "Lulu Kinsley, Richford, Franklin, VT." Ancestry Library.
United States Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, s.v. "Lou or Lulah Thomas, Richford, Franklin, VT." Ancestry Library.
U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project). H H Thomas, naturalized August 29, 1878, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont court district. Ancestry Library.
Vermont, Death Records, 1909-2008. Lou Kinsley Thomas, Burlington, VT, filed April 11, 1960. Ancestry Library.
Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908. H H Thomas and Lulah C. Kinsley, marriage, December 20, 1898, Richford, VT. Ancestry Library.
Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908. Horatio H Thomas and Cora Gibson, marriage, January 11, 1881, Richford, VT. Ancestry Library.
"Woman's Club Activities." Richford Journal and Gazette, May 10, 1918. Newspapers.com.