Kate Gordon was a champion of progressive reforms in early twentieth-century New Orleans. She was a member of the Portia Club (the first suffrage organization in Louisiana) but found the group too conservative and singularly focused. In 1895 she broke off from the organization and founded the Equal Rights Association (ERA Club).

In addition to suffrage, the ERA Club advocated for child labor reform, adequate funding for the city’s efforts to provide flood control and clean water, the admittance of women to the Tulane University School of Medicine, the creation of a juvenile court, and the appointment of a female juvenile court officer. Gordon also served as the vice president and corresponding secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

She was not, however, uniformly invested in the rights of all women. Because she was adamantly opposed to the enfranchisement of African Americans, Gordon opposed amending the US Constitution to extend suffrage to women, fearing that federal oversight of voting rights would upset social order in the South. Instead, she advocated for amending individual state constitutions, a position that led her to found the Southern States’ Woman Suffrage Conference in 1913 and to actively campaign in opposition to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

She was also a vocal advocate in the public health effort to control tuberculosis. In 1906 she organized the Louisiana Anti-Tuberculosis League, and later she managed the New Orleans Anti-Tuberculosis Hospital, located in the Gentilly neighborhood.    

Kate and Jean Gordon

from the Times-Picayune

February 22, 1976

The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Alexander Milne Home School for Girls, 97-44-L.6

Gordon sisters memorial window at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans


by Melissa Carrier, THNOC staff photographer