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Author photo. Lillie Devereux Blake (1835-    )  Buffalo Electrotype and Engraving Co., Buffalo, N.Y.

Lillie Devereux Blake (1835- ) Buffalo Electrotype and Engraving Co., Buffalo, N.Y.

Lillie Devereux Blake (1833–1913)

Author of Fettered for Life

Includes the names: Lillie Devereux Blake

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Elizabeth "Lillie" Johnson Devereux was a daughter of a North Carolina plantation owner, but spent much of her early childhood in Roanoke, Virginia. When her father died in 1837, Lillie's mother took her two daughters back to her family in New Haven, Connecticut. Lillie studied at Miss Apthorp's School for Girls until she was 15, when she received further education from Yale tutors. As a young woman, she was the belle of New Haven society. In 1855, she married Frank Umsted, a Philadelphia lawyer, with whom she had two daughters. She published her first story in Harper's Weekly in 1857. Lillie's husband died in 1859, apparently a suicide. She began to write short stories, novels, newspaper and magazine articles, often using pseudonyms, to support herself and her two small children. Over the next few years, she published two successful novels, Southwold (1859) and Rockford (1862). She also got a job as a correspondent in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, when she wrote for the New York Evening Post, New York World, and the Philadelphia Press, among others. In 1866, she married Grinfill Blake, a wealthy New York merchant. She became an active promoter of the new Barnard College. In 1869, she began a lecture tour of the USA in support of women's right to vote. She earned a reputation as a freethinker and became famous when she attacked the assertions of Morgan Dix, a prominent clergyman who asserted that woman’s inferiority was supported by the Bible. She served as president of the New York State Woman's Suffrage Association from 1879 to 1890 and of the New York City Woman's Suffrage League from 1886 to 1900. Mrs. Blake left the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1900 and went on to create the National Legislative League. She worked on improving immigration laws for women and furthering equality in society. In addition, Mrs. Blake worked to establish pensions for Civil War nurses, open civil service jobs to women, and grant mothers joint custody of their children. Public School 6 on the Upper East Side of New York city was renamed the Lillie Devereux Blake School in 1916 in her honor.
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