Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mrs. Cecile Devall, 1873-1931

By Fiona McMurtry, undergraduate student, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Cecile Saunders was born February 5, 1873 to J.W. Saunders and Sallie Saunders in Clinton, Louisiana. Cecile was the third of four siblings and her father was a physician in East Feliciana Parish. In 1898, Cecile married Clarence Cobb Devall of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Devalls lived in East Baton Rouge, where they had one child, Saunders Devall.

Devall was involved with many women's clubs and social work in Baton Rouge. Two causes she was most involved with were the suffrage movement and the prison reform movement. She helped to establish the State Equal Suffrage League in Baton Rouge in 1913. The State Equal Suffrage League was the first state suffrage organization in Louisiana. The League included both men and women and later became the sixth district branch of the Women's Suffrage Party of Louisiana.

Devall was also a strong advocate for prison reform within Louisiana. She was a member of the Louisiana Prison Reform Association, and in 1916 wrote an address to the candidates for Louisiana State office regarding prison reforms.

In 1924, Devall became the first social worker hired by the city of Baton Rouge, where she served as the Superintendent of Social Welfare from 1924 until 1936. During her employment she worked with the police department and the majority of the work she did focused on juvenile delinquents and female criminals of all ages. Her employment with the city came about as a result of a petition to the mayor by the Baton Rouge Civic Association, of which Devall was also a member. According to her obituary, Devall did not willingly end her employment with the city and was upset when she was dismissed from the position.

Mrs. Devall committed suicide on October 19, 1939 at 66 years of age, with a bullet to her temple. Her death was notable because of her prominence in the community and its circumstances.


United States census records, 1880, 1910, and 1920,

Obituaries of Cecile and Clarence Devall,

"Delegates from All Points in State Flock to Capital City," Women's Enterprise, 30 November 1921;,

Mrs. C.C. Devall, et al., "Address to Candidates for State Offices in Louisiana," Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 6, No. 6 (March 1916), at

History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, edited by Ida Husted Harper et al., National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 226 [LINK]

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