Emily Newell Blair was born in Joplin, Missouri on January 9, 1877. She moved to Carthage in 1883, after a bullet whizzed through her family’s living room and her mother insisted they decamp from the chaotic atmosphere of a nearly lawless mining town to a safer place. Carthage was evidently a good choice. Emily went on to graduate from Carthage High School, marry, raise a family, and rise to national prominence for her work in getting the vote for women.
Though politics and fighting for women’s equality became Emily’s life’s work, it was not her original plan. As a young woman, she saw her future as a writer. She was remarkably successful, despite the lack of encouragement that faced any woman who dared to do “men’s work” at that time. Writing at her dining room table as she oversaw her household, she sold her short stories and essays to many national publications including the Saturday Evening Post, Nation, Harpers and Cosmopolitan. She later became an associate editor for Good Housekeeping, writing book reviews from 1926 to 1933.
In 1912, she began working with Carthage women to get the vote. After she was given the editorship of Missouri Women in 1914, she began to work with women across the state, developing effective strategies that led to eventual success for their cause. For example, realizing that silent reproach would have greater impact than raucous protest, she proposed the Walkless, Talkless, Golden Lane of Women for the 1916 Democratic National Convention that was held in St. Louis. Thousands of silent women wearing white dresses with gold sashes lined the nine blocks of Locust Street from the hotels to the convention center and stared down the male politicians.
After the Nineteenth Amendment was enacted in 1920, Emily was chosen to be the Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and she began to organize women voters across the country. After Roosevelt’s election in 1932, she was appointed to a position in his administration; she relocated to Washington where she lived for the rest of her life.
When World War II began, Emily was asked to serve as chief of the Women’s Interest Section of the Bureau of Public Relations in the War Department.
After suffering a debilitating stroke in 1944, she retired from public life. She died in Alexandria, Virginia on August 3, 1951.