Laura Byrne led the Howard County suffrage movement at the turn of the 20th century
The Howard County Historical Society, Maryland Women’s Heritage Center and William G. Pomeroy Foundation unveiled a historic marker that honors the life and work of noted Ellicott City suffragist Laura Laurenson Byrne on Saturday November 14, 2021 at the Museum of Howard County History, 8328 Court Avenue in Ellicott City, Maryland.
In the early 1900s, Mrs. Byrne was president of the newly-formed Just Government League (JGL) of Howard County. Ms. Byrne also frequently opened her home to participants of house-to-house car tours and suffrage hikers from other areas. Women often used these methods to spread the word about suffrage and to show doubters that suffragists were everyday people like themselves.
Articles in The Baltimore Sun, The Evening Sun, Maryland Suffrage News, Evening Capital and Democratic Advocate show that she was a sought-after public speaker throughout Maryland. She addressed JGL gatherings in Baltimore City, Mt. Airy, Westminster, Eastport, Catonsville and Annapolis. In 1914, she was on hand for Women Suffrage Day at the Taneytown Fair and the suffrage bazaar at the 5th Regiment Armory. In June 1915, Ms. Byrne and friend Miss Marjory Matthews joined the Prairie Schooner 1,000-mile expedition around the counties of Maryland at LaPlata. They spoke to as many as 2,500 people and recruited 350 new JGL members.
Speakers at the November marker unveiling included Howard County Executive Calvin Ball; Liz Bobo, the first woman in Maryland to be elected county executive and new member of the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame; and historical reenactor Vicki Embrey, who portrayed Mrs. Byrne. Representatives from the Howard County Historical Society, Maryland Women’s Heritage Center and William G. Pomeroy Foundation also commented on Mrs. Byrne’s life and the importance of memorializing Maryland’s valiant suffragists.
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Read more about Laura Laurenson Byrne’s life and impact on Ellicott City and the suffrage movement: One determined woman: How Laura Byrne led the Howard County suffrage movement at the turn of the 20th century
Podcast: Laura Byrne: Serving Suffrage with a Smile, Ballots and Beyond, read by Elizabeth Bobo
In recognition of the 19th Amendment centennial, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation is funding historic markers on the National Votes for Women Trail (NVWT) to commemorate the people, places and events instrumental to women’s suffrage in the United States.
In Maryland, there are ten NVWT marker sites thanks to the dedicated work of the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center. Their efforts to identify, conduct primary source research and highlight these diverse stories with markers has advanced the knowledge of women’s suffrage history in Maryland today and for future generations.