Lilla Day Monroe

Lilla Day Monroe (November 11, 1858–March 2, 1929) is a 1982 National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame inductee.[1] Monroe was a lawyer, pioneer, and suffragette who spent the majority of her days in Topeka, Kansas. She contributed significantly to the Women's suffrage movement in Kansas. She also compiled the stories of over 800 women pioneers, which her great-granddaughter published as a book in 1982.

Lilla Day Monroe
Lilla Day Monroe (cropped).jpg
Lilla Day Moore

(1858-11-11)November 11, 1858
Mooresburg, Indiana
DiedMarch 2, 1929(1929-03-02) (aged 70)
OccupationLawyer, Suffragist, Pioneer
Notable work
Lilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Stories
Spouse(s)Lee Monroe


Lilla Day Monroe was born Lilla Day Moore on November 11, 1859, in Mooresburg, Indiana. Mooresburg is in Pulaski County, Indiana and was named for her father. Her mother raised her in the traditional homemaker skills. She taught her the importance of reading. Mother, daughter, and brothers walked regularly to a distant library to borrow books. The books were read and discussed after studies.[2][3][4] Monroe's first occupation was that of a schoolteacher.[1][5]

The lawEdit

Monroe started reading for the law early, initially for Judge Slack of Indiana. She migrated to Wakeeney, Kansas, in 1884, just at the end of the frontier era. There she met and married Lee Monroe, who was an attorney originally from Pennsylvania. They raised four children. Monroe was interested in the law, so she clerked in her husband's practice. She also studied law with her husband at home. She passed the local bar examination in 1894. Then she practiced law in the District Court. On May 7, 1895, she became the first woman admitted to practice in the Kansas Supreme Court.[2][3][4][5]

When her husband became judge of the Twenty-Third Judicial District, every court where Moore might practice was covered by her husband. Moore suspended all private practice of the law. She must have perceived a possible conflict or the appearance of one. Moore did, however, continue to use her training in volunteer pursuits for women's suffrage and other laws.[2]

Women's suffrageEdit

In what is assumed to be one of her earliest speeches regarding women's suffrage, titled, "Intemperance and Women's Rights", she argued for women to have the right to vote using liquor regulation laws as an example.[2]

The Monroe family moved to Topeka, Kansas, in 1901. There Monroe became active in many causes, but most notably suffrage. She joined the Kansas State Suffrage Association. She served as its president for many years.[3] She was also the head of the Kansas branch of the National Woman's Party.[6] From 1908 to 1912, Monroe spent significant time urging legislators to support Women's suffrage. She also made numerous public lectures espousing the need for expanded women's rights.[3][4] The Monroe home was located where the Docking State Office Building now resides in Topeka, the state capital. Monroe's home hosted many women and organizations who were participants in Women's suffrage. Monroe's children pointed out that it was commonplace for some of the women to become houseguests for many weeks.[2]

Monroe composed and wrote a book during the years she worked towards accomplishing Women's suffrage. The book was entitled, "The Gee-Gee's Mother Goose" and was full of verse and nursery rhymes. She once explained that the book's goal was to alleviate tension "when the argument grew too heated".[2][7]

No matter how dedicated she was to Women's suffrage, Monroe was adamantly against being used for other purposes. When it seemed that the movement had been turned over to the Democrats, she resigned from her position as Kansas chair. She resigned from the organization as well. She claimed that the organization was putting the agenda of the Democratic party first and Women's suffrage second.[2]

Monroe wrote and spoke quite frequently. Published accounts demonstrate Monroe's works were popular for their content as well as their delivery. It is also demonstrated in her 1906 address "Some Women Suffrage History," to a mixed audience at Pike's Pawnee Village in honor of their centennial celebrations. The Pawnee Village was an event established from the Good Government Club which involved Munroe and her friends one year prior.[2][8]

In 1919, Monroe was elected the first President of the Kansas Women Lawyers Association. Accordingly, the Association appropriated the same legislative programs as the Good Government Club. With Monroe piloting the association, it seemed normal when the association encouraged women to become lawyers. That would enable them to better further the interests of women and children.[2]This plea for more women lawyers was cited in the women Lawyers' Journal. Monroe was also a member of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. This organization actively advocated for legislators to pass laws regarding women's rights. Monroe was the president of the organization for many years.[4][5]

Other venturesEdit

Kansas Day ClubEdit

An event known as the Kansas Day Club had existed for a long time of which purpose had been to celebrate Kansas statehood. In 1905, Munroe and her friends felt that a women's version of the event would be more gratifying than being passive observers of the men's club. Monroe was an officer in the new Women's Kansas Day Club. She also composed the club's articles. The purpose of the club was to gather and preserve Kansas history and encourage patriotism among the youth of the state. The club was an outshoot of the Good Government Club.[2]

Good Government ClubEdit

Monroe spent many years as a lobbyist with the Good Government Club of Topeka. This and her good reputation led a unanimous Senate to allow her free rein to the Senate floor. Monroe appears to have the most material in the Hand Book of Laws. Laws discussed in this handbook are mostly from reprints from her articles published in The Women Lawyers' Journal.[2][5] Monroe spent 27 years as the head of this club's lobbying efforts.[3][4]

Other lobbying attempts included a minimum wage bill, child hygiene division in the State Board of Health, the property and inheritance laws, prenuptial contracts, divorce reform, "care and confinement degenerates, and the segregation of mental and moral delinquents", equal tax exemption to both sexes.[2] Monroe experienced a great deal of success in lobbying for Wome's suffrage and other examples mentioned herein.[5]

Other clubsEdit

Monroe created and edited The Club Woman. She created and edited The Kansas Woman's Journal. She was a member of the Women's Press Association, the State Federation of Clubs, the Business and Professional Women's Club, and the National League of Pen Women.[2][9][5]

Pioneer women storiesEdit

While Munroe was publishing her magazine, The Kansas Women's Journal, she started a journalism project to record the stories of pioneer women, which her daughter and great-granddaughter continued after she died. Munroe preserved more than 800 stories related by or about pioneer women. The stories reflect the adversity the women faced in settling the American frontier and their strength in overcoming these obstacles.[2] The project is still in existence today, maintained as the Lilla Day Monroe Collection of Pioneer Women's Stories.[10][11][12]

Death and legacyEdit

Monroe's daughter Lenore Monroe Stratton carried the project on by typing and indexing the stories. Then, Monroe's great-granddaughter Joanna Stratton, who was a Harvard University professor, was the woman who finally published Monroe's pioneer women stories as a complete volume in Simon and Schuster's Pioneer Women, Voices From the Kansas Frontier in 1982.[13][2]

Washburn University established the Lilla Day Monroe Award to honor women.[14]

Monroe died on March 2, 1929, in Topeka, Kansas.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Lilla Day Monroe". Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Lilla Day Monroe (Jane Chandler Holt)" (PDF). Journeys on the Road Less Travelled: Kansas Women Attorneys. Washburn University School of Law. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Lilla Day Monroe - Kansapedia". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Biographical Sketch of Lilla Day Monroe". Alexander Street Documents. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Lilla Day Monroe". League of Woman Voters of Kansas. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
  6. ^ Women of 1923 International. John C. Winston. 1923.
  7. ^ "The Gee-Gee's Mother Goose - Kansas Memory". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  8. ^ Monroe, Lilla Day (1908). "Some Woman Suffrage History". Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 10. Pike's Pawnee Village: Kansas State Historical Society. pp. 31–37. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  9. ^ "Lilla Day Monroe - Kansas Memory". Kansas Historical Society. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Cornelisen, Ann (March 8, 1981). "American Heroines, American Lovers". The New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  11. ^ Tanner, Beccy. "3 generations worked on stories of pioneer women". kansas. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  12. ^ "Lilla Day Monroe". Kansas Memory. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  13. ^ Stratton 1982.
  14. ^ "2017 Lilla Day Munroe Award". Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. Retrieved November 9, 2019.


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