Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Orilla M. Lawrence, 1824-1886
By Heather Parker, Student, University of California San Diego
Orilla M. Lawrence, sometimes spelled as Orrilla Lawrence, was born in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont in 1824 to Asa and Sally (Adams) Lawrence. Orilla Lawrence had one sister and three half-brothers. She graduated from the Newbury Seminary and Female Collegiate Institute in 1851 with a degree in Ladies of Liberal Learning. After graduating, Orilla moved to Portland, Maine where she taught school for eleven years before moving in 1862 back to West Concord, Vermont. Back in Vermont, she bought the O.F. Harvey block in West Concord and started a business. She ran a millinery and fancy goods business until she passed away. Around 1876, Orilla ran into legal trouble with First Constable Quimby. He felt that she wasn't taxed enough for her business, which was valued at $5,000 at the time. Because of this, she went through years of legal battle. Finally, in 1884, Orilla was found innocent for not paying the taxes on her estate. Orilla's legal case may have been related to her stance on women's rights and "taxation without representation."
The first piece of evidence of Orilla Lawrence's activity in the suffrage movement appears in 1885. She was Vice President of the Essex County sector of the Vermont Woman's Suffrage Association (VWSA). Miss Lawrence attended the organization's first annual meeting that occurred in 1885 where she served on the Committee of Resolutions. On the committee, she and other women fought for women's right to hold civil offices, municipal/town suffrage, and equal educational opportunities. She also attended the second annual meeting of the VWSA in December of 1885 but passed away shortly afterward. At that time, she was still the Vice President of the Essex County sector. However, she was no longer on any other committee. Her involvement in the suffrage movement was brief due to her death.
Orilla Lawrence died July 16, 1886 of cancer in her hometown. After her death, there was legal trouble with her estate due to some previous debts. After it settled, her estate was sold to C.H. Dudley in 1887.
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