Lorena King Fairbank

Lorena Content Vernon King was born on July 4, 1874 in Hampton, Iowa to John H. and Permelia King, members of the Society of Friends, growing up in Chamberlain and Huron, South Dakota [Honey Creek Monthly Meeting (IA) [Society of Friends] records, #1314, via Ancestry.com; J.Y. Smith, “Lorena King Fairbank, 105, Marched for Women’s Vote,” Washington Post (DC), October 17, 1979; “Lorena King Fairbank,” Find-a-grave.com].  Her parents supported the early suffrage movement in South Dakota, hosting both Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt during their campaign tours [Lead Daily Call (SD), July 10, 1974].  She worked as a rural teacher in the 1890s [Kimball Graphic (SD), July 2, 1892; Smith, “Lorena King Fairbank,” Washington Post, October 17, 1979].  In 1903, she graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelors in Philosophy [Alumni Council, Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1913), 142].  She married Arthur Boyce Fairbank in 1906 [Lead Daily Call (SD), July 10, 1974].  The Fairbanks lived in Huron until 1910/1911 then moved to Sioux Falls, living at 432 W 9th and then at The Cedars / Hunter’s Grove [Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago (1913), 142; Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), August 14, 1934July 30, 1944].

In 1904, King joined the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (later the American Association of University Women [AAUW]) [Lead Daily Call (SD), July 10, 1974].  In the 1920s, she founded branches of AAUW in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Madison, and Huron, and led the organization of the state division, becoming its first president in 1926; she was a member of AAUW until her death [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), July 29, 1951; Smith, “Lorena King Fairbank,” Washington Post, October 17, 1979; AAUW, “A Piece of History,” Leaving a Legacy (Winter 2013), 2; “Jail, Picketing, and Resolutions: AAUW and Suffrage,” AAUW online (February 28, 2013) — includes photo].

In November 1909, Lorena King Fairbank was elected treasurer of the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association and delegate to the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), November 5, 1909, September 15, 1923; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), April 22, 1910; Philip Weekly Review (SD), April 28, 1910; 42nd Annual Report of the NAWSA Convention (New York: NAWSA, 1910), 144, 172, 185; RD06572 and RD06574, correspondence 1909, Breeden papers USD].  During the 1910 Votes for Women campaign, Fairbank served as general treasurer, treasurer of the expenditure committee, on the executive “Committee of Five,” and was elected an alternate delegate to the NAWSA convention [RD06634, Votes for Women Campaign letterhead, May 3, 1910, correspondence, 1910-05, Jane Rooker Breeden papers, Richardson collection, USD; Page 5, Bulletin – votes for women, c1910, RA08427, Pyle Papers USD; Black Hills Union and Western Stock Review (Rapid City SD), May 6, 1910].  When the S.D.E.S.A. tried to organize a new political party, Fairbank was also treasurer of that party [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), December 8, 1910].

While on the east coast for the national suffrage convention in 1910, Fairbank was invited to speak at the Hotel Astor by the New York E.S.A. and made arrangements for Fola LaFollette to come to speak in South Dakota [Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 15, 1910; Letter LB Johnson to campaign committee, May 1910, RD06638, Correspondence 1910-05, Breeden papers USD; Page 2, Bulletin – votes for women, c1910, RA08427, Pyle Papers USD].

In July, Fairbank signed a suffrage petition. In August, she was named a vice-president of the S.D. Equal Suffrage League formed under Mamie Shields Pyle in Huron, and conducted the state meeting [Huron Daily Huronite (SD), July 11, 1910; RD10139, Mamie Shields Pyle Box 5, correspondence, M-Z, no date, Richardson Collection, USD; Daily Huronite (Huron SD), August 25, 1910]. 

In 1911, she worked with Pyle, Walton, and Taylor at the state legislature in Pierre to advocate for suffrage [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), March 2, 1911; Daily Plainsman (Huron SD), February 27, 1931].  She served as treasurer for the state association through 1912 [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), July 26, 1912; Mitchell Capital (SD), August 1, 1912].  In 1912, she was also appointed a member of the national committee from South Dakota [Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), August 2, 1912].

In 1916, Fairbank was one of the Minnehaha delegates to the state suffrage convention in Huron [Huron Daily Huronite (SD), December 9, 1916].

In 1917, a group of South Dakotans agreed to organize a state board of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, an organization focused on working for a federal amendment for equal suffrage.  At its organization in January 1917, Fairbank was elected as one of three vice-chairs and made arrangements for the meeting in the Quaker Tea Room in Sioux Falls [The Suffragist (National Women’s Party) 5(94) (November 10, 1917), 8; Argus Leader (Sioux Falls SD), November 1, 1917].

After suffrage passed into law, she was involved with the Minnehaha County League of Women Voters, serving as a program chair at its organization in January 1919 [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), January 9, 1919, February 18, 1922, September 8, 1923, September 15, 1923, March 30, 1927].

Fairbank was also involved for a long time with the state Federation of Women’s Clubs, even being referred to in 1905 as “an elocutionist of wide reputation” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 6, 1905Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), July 30, 1908; The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), September 4, 1908; Mitchell Capital (SD), April 2, 1914; October 18, 1917].  In 1910, she was one of women selected as a delegate to the national conservation congress in St. Paul; all selected were club women [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), August 18, 1910].

During World War I, Fairbank was chair of a local branch that was part of a “national organization formed for the purpose of supporting the fatherless children of France” [The Citizen-Republican (Scotland SD), August 29, 1918].

In 1944, Fairbank moved to Washington D.C., where her son John King Fairbank lived [Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD), July 30, 1944Lead Daily Call (SD), July 10, 1974; Smith, “Lorena King Fairbank,” Washington Post, October 17, 1979].  She died on October 15, 1979, age 105, and was buried with her husband at Woodlawn Cemetery in Sioux Falls.