Lillie Devereux Blake

Lived:August 12, 1833—December 30, 1913 (aged 80)

For more information about Blake's daughter, Katherine Devereux Blake, visit her profile here:

Lillie Devereux Blake was an author and suffragist.

Blake was born on August 12, 1833, to a prominent Virginia family. After her father’s death in 1837, the family moved to Connecticut and she was privately tutored and participated in the social whirl of their town. She married Frank Umsted in 1855 and, after the birth of their first daughter, turned to writing as a creative outlet. Her second daughter, Katherine, who would herself become a suffragist, was born in 1858. In 1859, Frank Umsted died and she found out that her family’s fortune was gone. To support herself and her daughters, she became a Washington correspondent for the New York Evening Post and the World. She also wrote short stories for various newspapers and magazines. In 1866, she married Grinfill Blake, a New York wire worker. By 1882, Blake had become a prolific writer, publishing 500 stories and articles, though most before 1870 were anonymous.

Blake got involved in the suffrage movement in 1869, which allowed her to blossom as an orator and activist. She was president of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association from 1879 to 1890 and the New York City Woman Suffrage League from 1886 to 1900, making several advancements in the campaign for suffrage. Blake also regularly delivered speeches at National American Woman Suffrage Association conventions over 30 years. She incorporated many arguments for suffrage and women’s rights into her novels, including her best-known book, Fettered for Life, published in 1874. Blake often butted heads with Susan B. Anthony in her efforts to include elite, New York women in NAWSA. She competed with Anthony’s pick, Carrie Chapman Catt, for the NAWSA presidency and was even endorsed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but eventually lost the race.

Blake died on December 30, 1913.

"Blake, Lillie Devereux." In Notable American Women, 1607-1950, Volume I: A-F, edited by Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, and Paul Samuel Boyer, 121-319. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.

Farrell, Grace. “Lillie Devereux Blake.” Legacy, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1997), 146-153.