Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Emilia Houghton (Mrs. Worthington Smith) Telford, 1883-1950

By Debra Neubert, Historian

Vermont Equal Suffrage Association: Corresponding Secretary
St. Albans Equal Franchise League: Treasurer

(Mary) Emilia Houghton was born on December 14, 1883, in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were Alfred Swift Houghton, (1855-1909) a physician, and Harriet Smith, a housekeeper. It is uncertain when the family moved to St. Albans; several local newspaper articles show that Emilia had lived there for many years and was quite well known. She completed high school, but does not appear to have attended college. She played a major role in social and philanthropic activities and patriotic work. She appeared in numerous plays and musical events and spent several years teaching public school at the Barlow Street School (the building is still in use in 2021 as a community center). On August 7, 1918, Emilia (age 35) married Worthington Smith Telford (1871-1961) of Duluth, Minnesota, formerly of St. Albans. Mr. Telford was a graduate of Yale Law School and a prominent lawyer in the Duluth area. After a short honeymoon the couple settled in Minnesota and had two children, Worthington Jr. and Polly. By 1920 the couple lived in Duluth, MN and their first child, Worthington S., was born that year. The 1930 census finds the family still in Duluth, living with two children and two servants in a house valued at $15,000. The couple can be found in the federal manuscript census for Duluth, MN as late as 1940, living with their two children and a servant.

Emilia appears to become involved with the suffrage movement in 1915. The annual report for the meeting of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association held in Springfield, Vermont, October 20-21, 1915 lists Emilia as being the Corresponding Secretary. During the meeting the Committee on Nominations proposed that Miss Emilia Houghton, representing the St. Albans West Side, serve as Vice-President. After all nominees were presented a discussion followed. On a motion, Miss Houghton was kept as corresponding secretary, because it seemed the work could be done more effectively if the president and corresponding secretary were in close touch. The name of Mrs. Edgar Moore was substituted for that of Miss Houghton as vice-president. The amended report was then adopted. She is listed, too, as the St. Albans Equal Franchise League Treasurer. There are newspaper articles about Emilia's stage accomplishments, as well as reporting that local meetings of the Vermont Equal Suffrage Association were often held in her home. An example from the Vermont Advance, reported that at one meeting she outlined how to properly organize committees and detailed how these committees would function in Vermont. It is unclear whether or not she continued with suffrage work after her marriage and move to Minnesota.

Emilia Houghton Telford seems to have led a life of service and activism. She certainly gave freely of her time and energy to things she loved and causes she believed in. It is interesting to note that the home Emilia lived in was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is one of St. Albans oldest surviving buildings. Emilia passed away on 28 June 1950 at the age of 67, probably in Minnesota. She and her husband are buried in St. Albans, which shows their love of the community they both had roots in.


Vermont Equal Suffrage Association Year Book, 1915

"Vermont Equal Suffrage Conference" The Vermont Advance, March 4, 1916 p.3.

Federal Manuscript Censuses, Duluth, MN, 1920-1940. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

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