Timeline of Louisiana Women's History

This brief timeline highlights incidents in Louisiana women's history. It is not intended to be complete; in fact, it is merely a beginning of listing the important contributions of women to this state's history. If anyone is interested in doing further research on this topic, please contact Dr. Robin Roberts, at 578-2981, English and Women's and Gender Studies Department, for access to files and research in progress.

  • 1813 -- Birth of Margaret Haughery, the first woman in the U.S. honored with a statue in her honor. See biography for additional information.
  • 1825 -- Birth of Caroline E. Merrick, pioneer activist, suffragist, temperance leader, president of the New Orleans/Louisiana Women's Christian Temperance Union, 1882-1892. see biography and June 16, 1879 entry for more information.
  • 1826 (May 7) -- Birth of Varina Howell Davis,(1826-1906), author and First Lady of the Confederacy. (Conrad)
  • 1832 (November 25)-- Birth of Elizabeth Lyle Saxon, suffragist, temperance leader, organizer of fifty chapters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union around the country, led the attack against the New Orleans Harmon ordinance which would have provided for the licensing of prostitutes. See biography and June 16, 1879 entry for more information.
  • 1837 -- Death of Justine Fervin Couvent, known as the "Widow Couvent" or "La Veuve Couvent", ex-slave born in Africa in the 1750s. She becomes a benefactress of education and of orphans, a real estate holder, and founder of a unique school in New Orleans for orphans of free people of color. (Conrad)
  • 1838 -- Myrthee Bedeau, free quadroon woman who was sold into slavery, successfully sues for her freedom. (Conrad)
  • 1842 (February 28) -- Birth of Sara Morgan Dawson (1826-1909) in New Orleans, a diarist of national significance. Her work, A Confederate Girl's Diary has been reprinted and studies as a unique view of women's lives during the War Between the States. (Conrad)
  • 1850 (July 15) -- Birth of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of the Philip Street House which became the Cabrini Day Nursery in 1928, one of New Orleans' first day care centers. She was the first American to be canonized (in 1946). (Conrad)
  • 1857 -- Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, graduate of the Pennsylvania Woman's Medical College, arrives in New Orleans, the first woman to practice medicine in Louisiana and one of the first women in the South to do so. (Lindig)
  • 1861 -- Birth of Frances Joseph Gaudet, African American social reformer and prisoner rights activist and founder of the Colored Industrial Home and School in New Orleans. See biography and Lindig for more information.
  • 1866 -- Birth of Sophie Bell Wright, educator and social reformer who was a staunch advocate of education for women and the poor. She was the first recipient of the Daily Picayune's Loving Cup award, honoring great civic duty. A statue erected in her honor stands at the corner of Sophie Wright Place and Magazine Street in New Orleans. See biography and Lindig for more information.
  • 1874 -- Death of Lucy Bakewell Audobon, (1787-1874), educator, wife of John James Audobon, and breadwinner so that he could publish The Birds of America. Her determination brought back their fortune, but then it was lost again before her death. (Conrad)
  • 1879 (June 16) -- Women speak out for the first time before a state body on behalf of women's rights. The state Constitutional Convention, held in New Orleans, was the setting for Caroline E. Merrick and Elizabeth Lyle Saxon to petition delegates to give all women the right to vote, at least on education issues. This event can be considered the start of the women's movement in Louisiana. (Lindig)
  • 1882 -- Louisiana's state pharmaceutical association is founded and Eliza Rudolph readily accepted as a member. She was the first, and for a number of years the only, woman to enter the pharmaceutical profession in Louisiana. (Lindig)
  • 1882 -- Birth of Martha Essae Culver, 1882-1931, the first state librarian of Louisiana. (Conrad)
  • 1887 -- The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the first college for women in Louisiana, is founded with a donation of Josephine Louise Newcomb as a memorial to her 15 year old daughter. Newcomb College is now part of Tulane University in New Orleans. (Lindig)
  • 1888 -- Birth of Caroline Dormon (1888-1971), environmental activist, botanist, and foremost authority of flora in Louisiana. The foundation of the Kisatchie National Forest is the direct result of her efforts. (Moore)
  • 1890 (July 21) -- Birth of Alice Almira Boley, (1890-1968), an African-American academic and early pioneer who made significant contributions to the development of Southern University. (Conrad)
  • 1891 -- Establishment of the Anti-Lottery Campaign, aimed at forcing the Louisiana Lottery Company out of business. This was the first statewide organized effort for women's political action. (Lindig)
  • 1892 -- Establishment of the Portia Club, Louisiana's first woman suffrage organization. Merrick and Saxon were its first two presidents. (Lindig)
  • 1896 -- Formation of the Era (Equal Rights Association) Club, New Orleans, by Kate Gordon which successfully pushed for the right of women to vote on matters of taxation. See her biography and Lindig for more information.
  • 1896 -- Death of Eliza Nicholson (Pearl Rivers), poet, newspaper owner and editor. She was the first Louisiana woman to earn a living writing for a newspaper, and the first woman owner of a major newspaper, the Daily Picayune. See biography and Lindig for more information.
  • 1896 -- Birth of Katherine Buckner Avery, (1896-1982), public health nurse and civic leader, who founded the Iberia Parish Tuberculosis and Crippled Children's Associations. (Conrad)
  • 1898 -- Bettie Runnels becomes the first woman to be admitted to Tulane University and the first woman to receive a law degree granted by a Louisiana University. (Lindig)
  • 1904 -- LSU admits its first woman student. (Lindig)
  • 1906 (October 19) -- Death of Madame Elizabeth Kettenring Begue, famous New Orleans restauranteur and culinary artist born in Germany in 1853. Her recipes were published in the work Mme. Begues recipes of old New Orleans. Creole cookery. (Conrad)
  • 1907-1911 -- Jean Gordon works in New Orleans as its first woman factory inspector. A noted suffragist and social activist, she is largely responsible for the passage of uniform child labor laws in the south. See biography and Lindig for more information.
  • 1910 -- The Daily Picayune's Loving Cup award is given to Dr. Sarah Tew Mayo who along with six other women doctors (all with degrees from outside the state) founded the New Orleans Hospital and Dispensary for Women and Children. (Lindig)
  • 1911 -- Fannie R. Glover becomes the first woman to graduate from nursing school (New Orleans) in Louisiana. The school was co-founded by Dr. Sarah Tew Mayo see 1910 entry and Lindig for more information.
  • 1913 -- Dr. Elizabeth Bass becomes the first woman voted into the Orleans Parish Medical Society, as a result of over five years of agitation and heated debate. Other women doctors admitted several months later were Drs. Sarah Mayo, Edith Loeber Ballard, Maud Loeber, Etta P. McCormick, and Caroline Mens. (Lindig)
  • 1917 -- Dr. Linda Coleman becomes the first woman to graduate from a medical school in Louisiana. She entered Tulane in 1915, twenty-one years after the law was passed granting authority to all colleges in Louisiana to grant degrees in law, medicine, and pharmacy to women. (Lindig)
  • 1917 -- Eve Butterworth Diebert, (1864-1937), philanthropist, receives the Daily Picayune's Loving Cup Award. The was the first non-Catholic woman in the south to receive the the Merenti Medal, a papal award, in recognition of her services to Catholic institutions. (Conrad)
  • 1929 (January 6) -- Death of Elizabeth Bisland, journalist, novelist, best known for traveling around the world in an attempt to beat Nellie Bly in shattering the eighty days travel record of Jules Verne's character Phineas Fogg. She lost the fight, but wrote the book Flying Trip Around the World recounting her story. She was also the founder and first president of the New Orleans' Women's Club, created to advance the cause of working women. (Conrad)
  • 1931 -- Harriet Spiller Daggett, (1891-1966), attorney, academic, becomes full professor at the LSU Law School after only five years. She was one of the first women to achieve a senior position in a major American law school and wrote several pioneering works that influenced family law legislation. (Conrad)
  • 1933 -- Attorney Florence Loeber dies, one of only four New Orleans women practicing law around the turn of the century. Her sisters Maud and Edith were also physicians (see 1913 entry.) She was president of the Era Club and Catholic Women's Club and had an outstanding reputation. (Lindig)
  • 1934 -- Death of Eleanor Laura McMains, internationally known for her work in the settlement house movement. (Lindig)
  • 1935 -- Louise Simon Davis, (1880-1974), founds Magnolia School, the first school for the mentally disabled in New Orleans. A pioneer in education for the mentally disabled, she founded two schools for African-American students, and worked with McMains at Kingley House. (Conrad)
  • 1940 -- Baton Rouge League of Women Voters formed, with Mrs. Stanley Preston as its first president. (Rogers)
  • 1942 -- New Orleans League of Women Voters formed, previously known as the Woman Citizens' League. Martha G. Robinson was its first president. (Rogers)
  • 1943 -- Statewide League of Women Voters formed, the thirty-fourth state league affiliated with the national league. (Rogers)
  • 1948 (February 19) -- Death of Susan Evangeline Walker Anding, (1878-1948), civic leader instrumental in establishing Louisiana's first state park, the Longfellow-Evangeline State Park near St. Martinville. (Conrad)
  • 1955 (November 23) -- Birth of Mary Landrieu in Arlington, VA, first elected woman U.S. Senator from Louisiana.
  • 1960 -- Ruby Bridges, a six year old African American girl, desgregates the William Frantz school, New Orleans. Her brave actions are immortalized in a picture by Norman Rockwell. (Baker)
  • 1970 (June 22) -- Death of Margaret Dixon, managing editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate from 1948 until her death, one of very few woman editors of large U.S. newspapers at that time. She was an advocate for prison reform and for the mentally ill. (Conrad)


  • Baker, Liva. The Second Battle of New Orleans: The Hundred-Year Struggle to Integrate the Schools (New York: Harper Collins, 1996.)
  • Conrad, Glenn R. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography 2 vols. (New Orleans, LA: Louisiana Historical Association, in cooperation with The Center for Louisiana Studies of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1988.)
  • Lindig, Carmen. The Path from the Parlor: Louisiana women 1879-1920. (Lafayette, LA: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1986.)
  • Moore, Diane M. Their Adventurous Will: Profiles of Memorable Louisiana Women (Lafayette, LA: Acadiana Press, 1984).
  • Rogers, Gayle. "Shreveport League of Women Voters and the Drive for Permanent Voter Registration in Louisiana" Northern Louisiana Historical Association Journal

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Jenna Ryan.