Lavinia R. Davis, MD

(1862–1945) Lavinia graduated from Oberlin College, the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the United States, in 1886. In 1896, she graduated from Syracuse University's College of Medicine as a physician. The following year, she established a general practice on Main Street in Oneida, NY, becoming the only female physician in the county. She practiced in Oneida for 47 years.

Starting in 1891, Lavinia served as state superintendent of franchise for the New York Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). She addressed WCTU county and state conventions on suffrage and presented franchise reports. She was a charter member of the WCTU local union in Oneida, and in 1900 became president of the Oneida local suffrage club. The watchwords of the WCTU: Agitate—Educate—Legislate fittingly characterize the activities of Dr. Lavinia Davis.

Dr. Lavinia spoke before a New York Senate committee in 1903 and 1904 in support of a legislative measure extending to female taxpayers of third-class cities the right to vote on questions of taxation. She participated on a legislative work committee for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Dr. Lavinia expressed her reasons for supporting suffrage at state conventions. In 1905, she presented the motto for Oneida: "She who is called upon to people the world should be law-giver as well as life-giver."

At the 1908 state convention, she announced that the WCTU and the state Woman Suffrage Association cooperated in bills before the legislature and "a full suffrage measure was introduced but lost though a most enthusiastic hearing was held, women attending from all parts of the state." Her response to roll call in 1915: "Women prepare children for the world, give them the power to help prepare the world for children."

From 1891-1918, Dr. Lavinia "sent out hundreds of suffrage leaflets and appeals to the local unions every year." She established the Davis Loan Fund back at Oberlin College in 1923. The fund provided loans to deserving young women.

In 1931, a Suffrage Memorial Tablet was placed in the State Capitol Building, Albany, NY by the NY League of Women Voters. It honored eighty-four NY women who had labored to gain woman suffrage. The list of names included Lavinia R. Davis. (Courtesy AlexanderStreet.com)

Evergreen Cemetery

9364-9374 County Route 2, Orwell, NY 13144

Oswego County

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This program was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

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