Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Louisa Howard Gray, 1835-1923

 

By Nancy Alexander Simmons, Fairfax Station, VA

Louisa Howard was born in June 1835 in Maryland to Nathaniel and Harriet Wilson Howard. In the 1850 US Census, Louisa is listed with her parents and siblings, all of whom are described as mulatto. Her father was a hay dealer in Baltimore, Maryland, which also indicates that they were not enslaved at the time. She married John T. Gray, who died before 1900. Census and city phone book records show that Louisa worked as a cook in Baltimore for many years. She had nine children, three of whom survived to adulthood.

Within a month after woman suffrage was ratified, the Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore reported that a large number of people were registering to vote, some "stayed in long lines stretching out on the sidewalk until their turn came." All were there to qualify for casting their first ballot in the presidential election in November 1920. The report said the requirement to be above the age of 21 was no obstacle "when Mrs. Mary Garrett, age 90 years, and Mrs. Geneva Gray, aged 84 years, were taken to polls in the Fourteenth Ward and in a clear voice but with shaking hands got themselves on the books. Both women are inmates of the Old Folks Home of the M. E. Church." This was the Home for the Aged at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore. Because Louisa Gray was enumerated in January 1920 as being at this home, was the same age as the Mrs. Gray referenced, and no records could be located for a Geneva Gray, it is likely that the newspaper reported her first name incorrectly.

Gray died on March 14, 1923, in Baltimore, and was buried there in Laurel Cemetery.

SOURCES

1850 U.S. Census, Maryland. Baltimore, Ward 11, Roll 284, p. 206B. Digital images. Ancestry.com.

1900 U.S. Census, Maryland, Baltimore City, Ward 10, Roll 612, p. 13, Enumeration District 0132. Digital images. Ancestry.com.

U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011.

Louisa Gray, death certificate, Maryland, City of Baltimore, Health Department, D73831, March 14, 1923.

"Women Spring Big Surprise." Afro-American (Maryland), September 24, 1920, p. 8.

 

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