Laura L. (Mrs. Tobe) Williams


Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Laura L. (Mrs. Tobe) Williams, 1864-1930

By Thomas Dublin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Binghamton University



Oakland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1912, p. 9.

Laura L. Williams (maiden name uncertain) was born in Louisiana or Texas in about 1864. In 1891 she married Tobias Williams and in 1899-1927 the couple resided in Oakland, California. Her husband, Tobe (or Tobias) Williams, was a cook, most likely on a Pullman car and in 1900 the couple owned their own home at 822 Lewis Street, free of a mortgage.

The first mention of Mrs. Williams in connection with woman suffrage is to her participation in the 1911 suffrage referendum campaign that was described by Delilah Beasley. Subsequently, Mrs. Williams served as president and hosted a meeting of the Colored Women's Republican Club at her home at 3318 Chestnut Street in Oakland in July 1914. The couple continued to live at that address through at least 1920.

Mrs. Williams took a leading role in Colored politics in Oakland, chairing a meeting of the Colored Women's Anti-Annexation League in October 1912. Over 60 members of the

Colored Women's Club attended the meeting. The league opposed annexation of Oakland by San Francisco, and helped defeat an amendment to the state constitution, which would have set the stage for possible annexation. In her address to that meeting, Williams said, "It is hands across from the white women to the colored women, and we th[a]nk them for this opportunity to be present with them. . . . we will stand beside them in fighting for our homes and our children."

Williams continued active in community affairs. In 1914 she was a vice president of the Colored Republican Club of Alameda County and joined the club in supporting the unsuccessful senatorial campaign of Joseph Knowland that year. In 1915 she served on the executive board of the Alameda County Colored American Civic Center. She was also a member of the Odd Fellows Rebekah lodge and served as a financial secretary.

Tobias Williams died in Oakland in 1927 and Laura passed away in 1930. They do not appear to have had children. Laura's obituary in the Oakland Tribune noted her as a member of several fraternal organizations, including the Household of Ruth and the Order of the Eastern Star. Her funeral was held at Cooper Zion church. Two sisters also resided in Oakland, while four other siblings lived in Louisiana.

At her death, Delilah Beasley wrote, "The sudden passing of Mrs. Tobe Williams removed a member of Cooper A.M.E. church. She had lived here about twenty-five years and was a devoted member and official of the local branch, N.A.A.C.P. Sympathy and condolence have been sent to members of her family."


Federal Manuscript Censuses for Oakland, entries for Tobias, Tob, and Tobe Williams, and Laura Williams, 1900-1920. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Find-a-Grave death records for Tobias (Tobe) Williams and Laura L. Williams. Accessed online via Ancestry Library Edition.

Oakland City Directories, entries for Tobias and Tobe Williams, 1899-1927, Oakland. Accessed online via Ancestry Library edition.

Beasley, Delilah L. The Negro Trail Blazers of California (Los Angeles: n.p., 1919).

________, "Activities Among Negroes," Oakland Tribune, 23 May 1926, p. 1.

________, "Activities Among Negroes," Oakland Tribune, 2 March 1930, p. 64.

"Women's suffrage in California," in Wikipedia, accessed online at

"Race Does Not Limit Loyalty of Oaklanders," Oakland Tribune, 30 Sept. 1912, p. 9.

"Color Line Is Not Drawn in Women's Fight," Oakland Tribune, 5 Oct. 1912, p. 1.

Untitled, Oakland Tribune, 11 July 1914, p. 5.

"Colored Women of County Organize for Knowland," Oakland Tribune, 18 July 1914, p. 9.

"County Civic Center Plans Anniversary," Oakland Tribune, 25 Feb. 1915, p. 9.

Obituary, Oakland Tribune, 26 Feb. 1930, p. 4.

Shane Downing, "That Time San Francisco Tried to Annex Oakland, Berkeley and Most of the Bay Area," accessed online at


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