Women’s Suffrage in El Paso

On Jan 12, 1915, the El Paso chapter of the National Franchise League organized at hotel Orndorff. The first president was Azina Orndorff DeGroff, who operated the Orndorff Hotel. Charter members of the group were Olga Kohlberg, who founded the first free kindergarten in Texas and served as president of the El Paso Library Association; Blanche Averill who served as president of the El Paso Women’s Club and founded the El Paso Chapter of the American Association of women; Mrs. J.F. Williams, Mrs Samuel J.  Freudenthal, Mrs. Burt Orndorff, Dr. Alice Merchant, Geraldine Rand, Mrs. Ira Bush, Mrs B.F. Hammett, Octavia Barlow, Mrs. George Ullrick, Louise Dietrich, Ruth Agur, Mrs. Robert Means, Mrs. Owen Seaman, Mrs. W.J. Cox, Mrs. Erick St. Clair Pudon, Dorothy Morgan, Dr. Anna Reum, Mrs. W.S. Tilton, Mrs. Horace Lay, Irene Laughlin, Mrs. W.M. Laughlin, and Mrs. C.W. Exton. Grace Logan, Mrs. B.F. Jenkins, were the first recording and corresponding secretaries.

The group was organized by Ruth Augur and met weekly in the parlors of  Hotel Sheldon. They heard different speakers, studied different issues, help supported the Cloudcroft Baby Sanitarium. The group fought for women suffrage and did their part for World War I, doing relief work for the troops. They also sponsored a public debate on women suffrage getting speakers from both sides to come debate each other. According to the newspapers, by the cheers made by the crowd, the pro-suffrage leaders won.

On August 18, 1920, El Paso women celebrated the passage of the 19th amendment, by planning a big parade, Mrs. Degroff furnished her car with white and gold and Mayor Charles Davis offered to bring a big band to Cleveland Square. The El Paso  Equal Franchise League became the El Paso League of Women Voters in 1919 with Belle Critchett as President. A women’s voter league was organized in Ysleta as well.

Joseph Longo

EPHS Curator

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.