Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lorraine Elizabeth Wooster, 1868-1953
By Christopher Caram, Student, University of California, San Diego
Lorraine ("Lizzie") Elizabeth Wooster, a lifelong educator, was born on July 24, 1868, in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Charley Wooster. At the age of 16, she began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, earning $33 a month. She soon began writing and selling textbooks on reading, spelling, and arithmetic that were adopted by schools across the United States. She even initiated and won a lawsuit against the railroad industry, forcing companies to lower freight rates on textbooks from $1.09 to $0.59 per hundred.
In 1918, Wooster, a Republican, was elected Kansas Superintendent of Public Instruction, serving from 1919 to 1923. During her campaign, her most persuasive argument was the fact that 12,000 out of the 15,000 teachers in the state were women, making it only sensible to elect a female superintendent. During her two terms, Wooster fought to secure more tax dollars for school funding, better financial aid for impoverished districts, and laws requiring students to stay in school until the age of 16. She believed teachers should be single, refrain from smoking, limit drinking, and dress conservatively. A.L. Shultz of the Leavenworth Times remarked, "In two successive terms - from 1919 to 1923 - Lizzie was a female dictator and czarina. Her stringent requirements of morals were as rigid as any outlined since the days of witchraft. She ruled the public schools of the state with an iron hand and would bend quickly under public sentiment." Wooster lost her election for a third term due to controversy over her strict moral policies and guidelines for teachers.
After her career in education ended, Wooster, who was also a lawyer (according to Kansaspedia online) served as vice president of the National Association for Women Lawyers and entered the Republican primary in 1932 as a candidate for the attorney general. Despite losing, she remained active in politics and continued to lobby for improvements to the educational system. She never married and died in Chicago on July 4, 1953. Among her many achievements in the world of education and politics, Lorraine Elizabeth Wooster is most remembered for being the first woman to hold a statewide elective office in Kansas.
Gary Demuth. "Women in History - Lorraine 'Lizzie' Wooster." Salina Journal, March 30, 2017. https://www.salina.com/article/20170330/news/303309840
"Lorraine E. Wooster - Biography Information." Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society. https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/elizabeth-wooster/12246
"Lorraine Elizabeth Wooster." Her Hat Was in the Ring: U.S. Women Who Ran for Political Office before 1920. http://www.herhatwasinthering.org/biography.php?id=7510
A.F. Throckmorton. "Kansas Educational Progress, 1858-1967." https://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/Research%20and%20Evaluation/Kansas%20Educational%20Progress.pdf
A.L. Shultz, "Lizzie Was School Dictator," Leavenworth Times, August 6, 1953, p. 14. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/16423139/lizzie-was-a-school-dictator/
Find-a-grave death record for Lorraine Elizabeth Wooster. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/68378327/lorraine-elizabeth-wooster