Elizabeth “Lizzie” Marvin De Very 1874-1945

One of the most ardent, well-spoken women in the Shelby suffrage movement lies in an unmarked grave in Oakland Cemetery.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Marvin was born to John Quincy Adams Marvin (1837 – 1927) and Mary Anita McDonald Martin (1823-1921) on Sept. 15, 1874. John was the son of Silas Marvin, who came to the area with his father Isaac, one of the earliest settlers, in about 1816.

In 1893, when she was just 19, she briefly printed and published the Shelby Weekly Echo, but halted production the next year because of ill health.

Lizzie quickly became involved in social issues, first with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, then as vice president of the newly formed offshoot Equal Franchise Association in 1912. Lizzie was one of about 60 Shelby women who led the effort to give women the right to vote. She began writing for the Daily Globe, covering visiting speakers, both for and against the suffrage movement. But, her writing had a decidedly pro-suffrage slant. Of anti-suffragist Miss Minnie Bronson, who visited Shelby in 1912, Lizzie wrote –

“The speaker gave a heartrending, tear-starting, hysteric-provoking picture of the disrupted homes to follow the enfranchisement of women. This was high class farcical comedy, in which even the leading lady must have found amusement. To say that homes would be disrupted, should one more of its members be given the power of self-government, is an insult to the manhood and a libel upon the womanhood of Ohio. The American home still stands in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington and California.”[1]  

Although Shelby men voted for suffrage, the state, as a whole, did not, and the 1912 proposed amendment failed. Lizzie and others began to visit nearby towns to speak about women’s right to vote. And she continued to write for the Daily Globe, covering debates. Well known anti-suffragist Lucy Price came to town in August 1913, claiming Shelby to be an anti-suffrage stronghold, with only three suffragists in the place. She claimed, “The men all seem to be antis or else on the fence waiting to learn what the women want.”[2]

Lizzie lashed out out in a rebuttal after Price’s speech –

“The anti suffrage speaker at the city hall Monday evening instead of presenting logical reasons why women should be denied the ballot, spent much of the time in eulogizing legislation on non-suffrage states and in veiled sarcasm toward the body of suffragists who were fair enough to add their presence to an exceedingly small crowd.”[3]

Lizzie remained an ardent supporter, helping to expand Shelby’s Equal Franchise Association to the Woman Suffrage Association of Richland County. She was a member of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, which campaigned for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage. Nationally, women were given the right to vote August, 1920 through the adoption of the 19th Amendment.

A prominent Democrat in the community, Lizzie immediately filed a petition with the county board of elections as a candidate for Charter Commissioner, which would draft a charter form of government for Shelby. She was the only woman of sixteen candidates. Fifteen were to be chosen through voters. An unofficial vote had Lizzie winning the final spot over Howard D. Seltzer by one vote. A more careful review of the election figures showed that two votes weren’t counted for Seltzer.[4]  A recount was made, showing 153 votes for Lizzie, 154 for Seltzer and 155 for M. E. Roberts. Fifteen men had been chosen for the commission.[5]

Lizzie also ran for mayor in 1921 against three-time mayor, C.E. Morris. The illness of her mother, who died just a few days after the election, along with a lack of campaign funding, as well as the immense popularity of the incumbent, hindered Lizzie’s chances for election.[6]

In 1927, while in her 50’s, Lizzie married itinerant umbrella mender Charles De Very. Although she had known him for 5 years, the marriage was a short one. Lizzie filed for divorce after 3 months on the grounds of habitual drunkenness and extreme cruelty.[7]  The marriage ended in 8 months. The feud started with coffee grounds. De Very wanted her to reuse them and she threw them out. There were further allegations of De Very’s stinginess. A final fight ended with a call to the police about wife beating. In a very public trial, Lizzie claimed he was a drunk, and he claimed she was a gold digger. She asked for her name to be restored to Marvin but at the time of the divorce, she kept the De Very name for “business reasons.” She was awarded $500 alimony.[8]

Lizzie became a columnist for the Daily Globe in the early 1930’s, drawing from her memories of her younger days in a series called “Do You Remember.”  The popular columns included places of the past, like the fair grounds and roller skating rink, hotels, homes of citizens, and mentioned notable people. 

She remained loyal to the Democratic party, helping to form the Eleanor Roosevelt Club in 1936 to support those running for office.

In 1945, while walking along Mohican Street where she lived, Lizzie suffered a stroke. She was taken to the hospital, where she died the next morning, on May 1, 1945. Lizzie was 69 years old.

Endnotes

[1] Daily Globe, August 22, 1912

[2] Daily Globe, August 2, 1913

[3] Daily Globe, August 7, 1913

[4] Daily Globe, May 23, 1921

[5] Daily Globe, May 24, 1921

[6] Daily Globe, November 10, 1921

[7] Daily Globe, Feb. 15, 1928

[8] Daily Globe, June 4, 1928

Submitted by Christina Yetzer Drain

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