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Blake family papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00018

Scope and Contents

This small collection of the Blake Family Papers dates from 1872 to 1958 and consists of material relating to Lillie Devereux Blake and her daughter, Katherine Devereux Blake. The papers of Lillie Devereux Blake include a detailed list of the principal events of her life, correspondence, printed material by and about her, writings (speeches, articles, clippings), and a scrapbook. Correspondence includes incoming letters from Matilda Joslyn Gage (circa 1880s) and outgoing letters to Isabel Howland (1892-98). Her writings include public statements regarding the National Legislative League, articles on woman's position and suffrage, and appeals to legislation for the approval of women's suffrage. A scrapbook kept by Lillie Devereux Blake between 1872-75 contains newspaper clippings of articles on woman's position, in addition to miscellaneous and unrelated topics. The papers of Katherine Devereux Blake include a small number of speeches, clippings, autobiographical and historical notes, and correspondence. Notable correspondents include John Dewey, Anita Pollitzer, and James Shotwell.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1872-1958
  • Creation: undated


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Lillie Devereux Blake (1833-1913) was a suffragist, a noted fiction writer, journalist, essayist, lecturer, and women's rights advocate. The daughter of planter George Pollock Devereux and Sarah Elizabeth Johnson, she was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. When her father died in 1837, her mother decided to leave his plantation in Roanoke, Virginia and return with her daughters to her relatives in New Haven, Connecticut. Lillie attended Miss Apthorp's School for Girls in New Haven until age fifteen, after which she studied with a private tutor in the Yale undergraduate curriculum. She married Frank Umsted, a lawyer from Philadelphia, in 1855. The birth of their first daughter, Elizabeth, in 1857 coincided with the publication of her first story in Harper's Weekly. The years 1858-59 were marked by the birth of her second daughter, Katherine, the publication of her first novel, Southwald, and the alleged suicide of her husband. She resisted remarriage. Instead, to support her family she wrote, using pseudonyms, for mass market magazines and was a Washington-based Civil War correspondent for one magazine and two papers. In 1866, she married Grinfill Blake, an employee at a manufacturing firm in New York. She continued to support herself by writing. Among her works are a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, hundreds of uncollected short stories and essays, and five novels.

Blake strongly supported equality of education for men and women. In 1876, along with Matilda Joslyn Gage and others, she signed the Centennial Women's Rights Declaration. She was a main contributor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Woman's Bible (originally published in 1892 and 1895). After 1869 she began touring the United States, speaking on women's rights. Her accomplishments as a woman's rights activist included being the president of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (1879-1890) and the Civic and Political Equality Union of New York City (1898-1900), and founder of the National Legislative League (circa 1903). She led successful campaigns to establish pensions for Civil War nurses, open civil service positions to women, give women joint custody of their children, enable women to serve on school boards, and to work in public institutions where women were incarcerated. She was active in the National Woman Suffrage Association (after 1890, the National American Women Suffrage Association [NAWSA]). She failed in an attempt to succeed Anthony as president of NAWSA in 1900, losing to Carrie Chapman Catt, and thereupon withdrew to form her own National Legislative League. Ill health forced her retirement from public activity after 1905, and she died in Englewood, New Jersey on December 30, 1913.

Lillie Devereux Blake's daughter, Katherine Devereux Blake (1858-1950) was a pacifist, suffragist, ERA activist, teacher, and a leader in National Education Association. She was an advocate for progressive women's education. She was also the New York Chair of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She graduated from what later became Hunter College in 1876 and thereafter began her career as a New York City public school teacher. In 1894 she was appointed principal of the "Girls Department" of Public School 6 (renamed the Lillie Devereux Blake School in 1916). In 1911 she became the principal of the school, a position she held until her retirement in 1927. She served on a number of committees that promoted teacher benefits, night school for women, the election of women to the New York Board of Education (she was the first woman treasurer), and to the presidency of the National Education Association. She was one of nineteen teachers chosen to accompany Dr. John Dewey on his official visit to Russia in 1928. Blake devoted her summers during 1911-1919 to campaigning for woman suffrage in California, New York, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Connecticut. In New York, she was the head of nearly 15,000 teachers working for woman suffrage. Blake was also an active and outspoken advocate for peace and she was a member of the Ford Peace Expedition in 1915-16. She served on the national board of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and its international executive board, and was an active member for many years. She co-authored Champion of Women: The Life of Lillie Devereux Blake (1943), a memoir based on her mother's papers, with Margaret Louise Wallace. Blake died on February 2, 1950 in St. Louis, Missouri.


0.23 linear feet (2 containers)


The Blake Family Papers contain material relating to Lillie Devereaux Blake and her daughter Katherine Devereaux Blake. Lillie Blake was a suffragist, writer, and women's rights advocate. Katherine Blake was a pacifist, suffragist, ERA activist, teacher, and a leader in the National Education Association. Materials include biographical and printed material, writings, and a scrapbook. The collection also contains correspondence with Mathilda Joslyn Gage, Isabel Howland, John Dewey, Anita Pollitzer, and James Shotwell.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Blake Family papers were given to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1954 by Elizabeth D. Marriot, the granddaughter of Lillie Devereux Blake.

Related Material

Additional papers of Lillie Devereux Blake are located at the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri. Additional papers of Katherine Devereux Blake are located at the Swarthmore Peace Collection, Swarthmore College, and correspondence of Katherine Devereux Blake may be found in other collections in the Sophia Smith Collection.

Processing Information

Finding aid revised in 2002 by Christine Jedziniak, intern.

Blake family papers
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Finding aid prepared by mnsss.
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss168 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:12-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063