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Suffrage Martyr

In June 1919, with Congressional approval of the Nineteenth Amendment finally secured, suffragists geared up for the ratification battle to obtain the approval of thirty-six of the forty-eight state legislatures. The ratification victory in Oklahoma was painfully costly.

Pro-ratification forces were stymied by Governor John Robertson’s refusal to call a special session of the legislature to vote on the amendment. Robertson’s spokesman, Attorney General S. P. Freeling, a foe of ratification, echoed Robertson’s position at the Pottawatomie County Democratic Convention. Although stricken with influenza, Aloysius Larch-Miller, the secretary of the Oklahoma State Suffrage Ratification Committee, known for her rhetorical prowess, was there to debate Freeling. Her persuasiveness prompted the delegates to vote two to one in favor of calling a special session. Her energy successfully expended for the cause, Larch-Miller, returned to her home in Shawnee. The next day, February 2, 1920, at the age of thirty-three, Aloysius Larch-Miller died of pneumonia.

Her funeral on February 3 was attended by hundreds of people, including Freeling. Governor Robertson ordered the state flag to be flown over the capitol building at half-mast, A resolution of sympathy was passed for Larch-Miller “a martyr to woman suffrage." SUFFRAGE HEROINE LAUDED read the front-page headline in an Iowa newspaper. “Died of Pneumonia Just After Her Victory over Attorney General of Oklahoma,” read the sub-headline. On February 28, at a special session of the legislature, Oklahoma became the thirty-third state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.

Six months later during the final ratification fight in Tennessee, the Aloysius Larch-Miller Memorial Association asked legislators to ratify in memory of Larch-Miller, a native of Jackson, Tennessee. The Larch-Miller Memorial Park was established in Shawnee, Oklahoma. A plaque attached to a boulder reads: “In Memory of Aloysius Larch-Miller Who Gave Her

Life for the Enfranchisement of Women.” During the 2020 Nineteenth Amendment Centennial, residents of Shawnee plan to honor Aloysius Larch-Miller. (The picture of

Larch-Miller appeared in a 1918 newspaper article.)

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