Elizabeth Radcliff Canough
(1869–1944) Elizabeth was a suffrage leader in Syracuse in the 1910s. She held two key roles in 1915-1917, the final years of New York’s long crusade for the vote: she was president of the Syracuse Political Equality Club, and district leader for the New York State Woman Suffrage Party, responsible for Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga, Jefferson, and Madison counties.
The districts were defined by Carrie Chapman Catt, who had created a highly organized structure to lobby the men who would vote on a suffrage amendment in New York. This three-part process required passing a bill through both houses of the legislature, passing the same bill in the subsequent legislature, and then going to the voters for a popular referendum. In 1915, despite three years of ceaseless effort, they lost at the last step. The men of New York defeated the suffrage bill by a wide margin. Two nights after the defeat, the women of New York gathered at the Cooper Union in the East Village and immediately vowed to try again. They raised $100,000 that night to fund a do-over—about $2.5 million in 2020 terms.
A few months after that, as the movement sought to shore up its leaders for the next round, Elizabeth spoke at a dinner in Syracuse honoring “suffrage pioneers.” In November 1916, at the state suffrage convention in Albany, she was elected leader of her district, known as District 5. We don’t know a lot about Elizabeth's work over the following year, but it must have been substantial: the referendum passed in 1917, and New York women finally became full citizens.
Elizabeth and her husband William, a lawyer, had three children, but none of them lived to adulthood. After suffrage, Elizabeth continued to contribute to her community, serving as a member of the Syracuse Housing Authority during the Great Depression. She focused on establishing minimum housing standards for Syracuse. Bio by Rachel B. Tiven.
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