J.H. DeVoe

John Henry DeVoe was born in 1846 in Wayne County, New York.  During the Civil War, he served as a musician in Company G, 9th N. Y. Artillery, 2nd Brig. , 3rd Div., 6th A.C. In 1867, he went to Illinois for school and taught school for three years. He also attended courses in Michigan and taught a year at Blandville College in Kentucky. He then worked for J.V. Farwell & Co. in Chicago for two years and then as a station agent for the Chicago & Alton RR for six years. In 1879, he married Emma Smith, who was teaching music at Eureka College, and they migrated to Huron, Dakota Territory in 1881. In 1882, they filed a soldier’s claim for a homestead.  Having proved up their first claim in 1883, they moved northwest to Faulk County and started a community named DeVoe for them (not extant), though they moved back to Huron after a year [“Page 66 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Willard and Livermore (1897), 239; “John Henry DeVoe,” Find-a-grave.com; Liner notes of the 1958 “Songs of the Suffragettes” album, Smithsonian Institution].

When the 1889-1890 suffrage campaign started in South Dakota, J.H. DeVoe gave one of the speeches from the “brothers-in-law of the W.C.T.U.” who added their words to the slate of women who spoke at the Beadle County fair in September 1889. The night after the fair, the DeVoes hosted the meeting that started planning a state suffrage convention. When the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association (S.D.E.S.A.) was organized at the first state suffrage convention in Huron in October 1889, DeVoe was elected to the executive committee [The Union Signal, November 7, 1889, in “Page 09 : South Dakota — Equal Suffrage Work,” Dakota Farmer (Huron SD), November 1889, “Page 66 : Entire Page,” and “Page 67 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Ceclia M. Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign: A Need to Organize,” South Dakota History (1982), 205]. 

He designed the emblem showing balances with the words “justice” and “equality” that was used by the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association on letterhead, medals, and pins for the campaign [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), October 25, 1889].

Breeden papers, USD, Box 1, Correspondence 1895 – 1898, 1907, RD06487.

J.H. DeVoe also served the S.D.E.S.A. as superintendent of music, and committees for campaign songs in fall 1889 and July 1890 [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), October 25, 1889; Page 004 : Letter addressed to “Women of South Dakota,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1892-1894 (Scrapbook C), and Page 44 : The Convention, and Woman’s Journal, September 13, 1890, “Page 52 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 9, 4 Nov 1890; Willard and Livermore, American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies… (1897), 239].  He composed campaign songs for the suffrage movement that his wife Emma sang at her lecture events [Willard and Livermore (1897), 239].  In 1888, he published a song “Dakota, Land of Liberty,” which contained the lyric “Thy daughters fair demand of thee before the law, equality; Deny them not ‘tis tyranny Dakota, land of liberty.” [Page 38, Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].  In 1890, Emma sang his song “A Soldier’s Tribute to Women” and local veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic were invited to her presentation at Burgess Hall in Hitchcock [Huron Times (SD), February 28, 1890, DeVoe Collection, WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Page 66 (a clipping on the page includes the lyrics of the song!), Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

DeVoe described how “The patriotic women with their hearts so good and true” came to help the embattled soldiers during the Civil War.

After women nursed him back to health he vowed to:
help the women
For their hearts were loyal too,
And my vote shall go to free them,
For they nursed and brought me thro’

Liner notes of the 1958 “Songs of the Suffragettes” album, Smithsonian Institution

The book of songs produced by the S.D.E.S.A. also included songs credited to him called “What’s All the Stir?” with the lyric “Our women bold, in words of gold, Their freedom do declare”; “Roll the Suffrage Ball” with the lyric “O! Mister Politician, what you gwine to do?  Woman wid der votes am a comin after you”; “South Dakota is Coming”; “The Country Boodler’s Lament.” It was apparently rare for including the music as well as the lyrics, and it was sold for $0.10 [Danny O. Crew, Suffragist Sheet Music: An Illustrated Catalogue of Published MusicAssociated with the Women’s Rights and Suffrage Movement in America, 1795-1921, with Complete Lyrics (Jefferson NC: McFarland & Co., 2002), 108-115; Woman’s Journal, September 13, 1890, “Page 52 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. Several of his songs were later sung during the NAWSA convention in D.C. in 1891, including “O, Sing of Wyoming,” “A Soldier’s Tribute to Women,” “Columbia, Land of Liberty” (adapted from Dakota, Land…) [“Page 63 : Songs Sung at the National-American Woman’s Suffrage Convention,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

J.H. DeVoe also published a “Division and Admission Dakota Campaign Song Book” while leaders in Dakota Territory sought admission as two states [Turner County Herald (Hurley, SD), September 13, 1888; Page 11, Clara Watson Elsom: 10/22/1908 – 8/27/ 1938 (Scrapbook A), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 7].

In the early part of the campaign, Susan B. Anthony gave a speech at the courthouse in Huron and J.H. DeVoe gave her introduction [“Page 75 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

His support of the suffrage movement included writing about the campaign for the newspapers, for instance he reported to The Woman’s Tribune in Nebraska on the suffragists’ appeal (featuring a speech by his wife Emma) to the Farmers’ Alliance convention in the spring of 1890. The editor of the Warner Sun published a mocking response to him, saying “we shall presume that he is of the masculine gender” and then talked about suffragists as nagging Amazons. [Sioux Falls Press (SD), January 16, 1890, “Page 65 : Entire Page,” The Appeal (Aberdeen SD), April 25, 1890, Page 35 : Entire Page,” Page 36 : Entire Page,” Warner Sun (SD), May 30, 1890, “Page 37 : Entire Page,” The Woman’s Tribune, June 7, 1890, “Page 42 : Entire Page,” and “Page 44 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Mary Kay Jennings, “Lake County Woman Suffrage Campaign in 1890,” South Dakota History (1975), 393-394].

The DeVoes also housed out-of-state campaigners including Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw who visited South Dakota in 1890 [The Dakota Ruralist, April 19, 1890 in “Page 28 : [news clipping: Emma Smith DeVoe shows skill],” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

On February 15, 1890, the Huron suffragists held a birthday celebration for Susan B. Anthony at the local G.A.R. Hall (she wasn’t present). J.H. DeVoe chaired the event, and it concluded with his “Soldier’s Tribute” song [Huron Daily Times (SD), February 17, 1890, “Page 26 : Susan B. Anthony Honored,” “Page 26 : In Honor of Miss Anthony,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Leavenworth Times (KS), March 11, 1890].

His wife Emma traveled extensively giving lectures and organizing suffrage associations in churches and schools around the state. There isn’t much mention of his presence on these travels, except for one clipping that noted that “Mr. and Mrs. DeVoe” both were on hand to organize the club at the Murray schoolhouse 12 miles southeast of Huron [“Page 26 : [news clipping: equal suffrage clubs form],” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

When the Beadle County E.S.A. was organized at a convention in March 1890, J.H. DeVoe published the call for the convention, sang “Soldier’s Tribute” with Emma, and was elected its first president [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), March 14, 1890; “Page 25 : Equal Suffrage: A Convention to be held in Huron on Friday, Feb. 28, 1890,” and The Woman’s Tribune (Boston), March 15, 1890 in “Page 27 : Beadle County Convention,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; The Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), May 13, 1890].   

J.H. DeVoe was also active with the South Dakota Grand Army of the Republic, for Civil War veterans [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), April 4, 1890].

In 1891, the DeVoes moved to Harvey, Illinois, where Emma continued to be involved with organizing the suffrage movement there [Willard and Livermore (1897), 239].  

There was also one sheet in his wife’s scrapbooks that included him as the treasurer of a “Federal Suffrage Association” in 1892. The VP was the Rev. Olympia Brown who had campaigned in SD [“Page 07 : Memorial Addressed to the Republican Convention by the Officers of the Federal Suffrage Association,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].

In 1905, they relocated again to Tacoma, Washington where Emma led the Washington state E.S.A. [“Emma Smith DeVoe,” National Women’s Hall of Fame].

J.H. DeVoe died in 1928 in Parkland, WA [“John Henry DeVoe,” Find-a-grave.com (includes photographs)].