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West Virginia Women's Suffrage Trail

Zone 2 of 10: Morgantown

You are vieweing item 10 of 40 in this tour.

This was the home of Ellis A. and Lenna Lowe Yost. Lenna Lowe Yost was an important suffragist and overall activist in the state of West Virginia. Yost was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the president of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association. Yost was also the first woman to preside over the Republican state party convention. Lenna Lowe Yost was president of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association during the referendum campaign of 1916, and she largely ran that campaign from her Morgantown home.


Lenna Yost

Eye, Jaw, Sleeve, Art

Location of 56 University Driveway

Car, Wheel, Sky, Land vehicle

Lenna Lowe Yost, Parkersburg News, October 1, 1916

Jaw, Flash photography, Monochrome, Monochrome photography

Lenna Lowe Yost

Lip, Jaw, Flash photography, Wings

"CBS. National Woman's Dem. Clerk Mrs. Ellis A. Yost," c. 1905-1945

Table, Flash photography, Style, Black-and-white

The Fairmont West Virginian, March 12, 1915.

Font, Publication, Paper, Paper product

The Fairmont West Virginian, June 28, 1915

Newspaper, Publication, Font, Newsprint

Headline from the front page of the Fairmont West Virginian, September 23, 1915.

Newspaper, Publication, Font, News

The Fairmont West Virginian, April 4, 1916

Publication, Newspaper, Font, Newsprint

The Clarksburg Daily Telegram, June 14, 1916

Newspaper, Font, Paper, Rectangle

The Fairmont West Virginian, September 5, 1916

Publication, Newspaper, Font, Document

The Wheeling Intelligencer, November 7, 1916

Font, Publication, Newspaper, Paper product

"WVESA Ratification Committee (Henrietta Romine, Cora Ebert, Julia Ruhl, Nancy Mann, Daisy Peadro, and Lenna Lowe Yost) with petitions for ratification. Huntington Advertiser, September 26, 1920"

Font, Art, Gesture, Event

The Fairmont West Virginian, October 26, 1920

Newspaper, Font, Material property, Publication

Lenna Yost's passport to attend the International Congress Against Alcoholism in 1921

Handwriting, Font, Parallel, Diary

Ellis Yost

Forehead, Eyebrow, Tie, Dress shirt

Morgantown, West Virginia, City Directory, 1915.

Font, Material property, Publication, Paper

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1911

Product, Rectangle, Font, Schematic

56 University Driveway (in box) prior to construction of Mountaineer Field in 1924.

Photograph, Water, Sky, Building

56 University Driveway (in box) in 1924

Building, Window, Tree, Picture frame

56 University Driveway (in box) in 1924

Building, Window, Slope, House

56 University Driveway (in box) in 1969

Field house, Landscape, Urban design, Team sport

Lenna Lowe was born in Basnettville to Jonathan S. and Columbia Bassnett Lowe on January 25, 1878. Her father died when Lowe was only eight, and her mother ran a store in Fairview while raising Lenna and her three siblings. She studied art at Ohio Northern University and then graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College. In 1899 Lowe married Ellis Yost and a couple years later they moved to Morgantown for Ellis to study law.

Both Lenna and Ellis were quickly active in politics and reform. Ellis Yost won a seat in the state legislature in 1909 and 1913 where he campaigned for a prohibition law and Lenna Yost became state president for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1908, using her position to support her husband’s prohibition efforts. She emerged into reform in the Progressive Era, when women were gaining new access to education and engaging in more civil reform efforts to influence both society and politics. While women did not have the right to vote or hold political office, they could do many things to support their causes such as organize strikes, form unions, use community organizations, and advocate for reforms related to women and children. However, they had to use the political power of men to achieve their goals since they could not vote. For the Yosts, Lenna Yost’s skills in staging community events in support of prohibition helped Ellis Yost pass the state prohibition law (House Bill No. 8) in 1913. This law made West Virginia a dry state and was one of the toughest prohibition laws in the nation. That same year Ellis Yost introduced a woman suffrage amendment to the House which passed by a vote of 58 to 25 with little opposition; however, the amendment was blocked by opposition in the Senate.

In both the United States and West Virginia there was a connection between the Temperance Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. While serving as president of the WCTU (1908-1918) Lenna Yost also became president of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association (WVESA) (a division of the NAWSA, National American Woman Suffrage Association) in 1916. From these positions Lenna Yost campaigned for both prohibition and the vote, arguing that women needed the vote to engage in their reform work and that women had special abilities and skills that they could bring to the table to better their communities, states, and nation. Lenna Yost assumed the presidency of the WVESA during the 1916 state referendum on women’s suffrage in West Virginia, and she managed the campaign from her Morgantown home.

Yost was quite optimistic about the suffrage cause and West Virginia’s role in it; in a letter to “women” in 1916, Yost closed it with “suffrage sentiment increases every day! Onward to victory!” [D-12] Women’s suffrage was defeated at the polls in 1916 and Yost turned the presidency over to Julia M. Ruhl.

In 1919 the Yosts moved to Washington, D.C. briefly and Lenna Yost served as a national legislative representative for the WCTU and was the Washington correspondent for the organization’s journal (the Union Signal) until 1930. When the 19th Amendment was passed to the states for ratification in 1919, Lenna Yost returned to West Virginia to campaign for the state’s ratification. A newspaper article quoted Yost as saying “We are confident that the requisite 36 states will ratify the suffrage amendment in time for this years election and we hope that West Virginia will be one of the 36.” [The Charleston Daily Mail] She served as the Chairman of the Ratification Committee in the WVESA and was instrumental in West Virginia being the 34th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1920. 

After the campaign to ratify the 19th Amendment, Lenna Lowe Yost remained active in politics and achieved many “firsts” for women at the state and national levels. She continued to support temperance, advocated for better working conditions and education for women, and encouraged women taking an active role in politics. She encouraged women to not just vote, but to be actively engaged in party politics. She was a member of the Republican Party and worked in many roles supporting the party. In 1920 she chaired the Republican National Party Convention that nominated Warren G. Harding and she was the first woman to serve as a counting teller in a National Republican Convention (Chicago). She was the first women as a member of the Republican National Committee from WV, first woman in WV history to preside over a state convention in 1920, first woman chairman of any Republican State Convention, and first women to act as chair of the Committee on Platform and Politics for the Republican State Convention in 1924. Between 1930 and 1935 Lenna was director of the Women’s Division of the Republican National Committee.

In addition to her work with the Republican Party, Lenna Yost remained a strong advocate for temperance and women’s education. President William Harding appointed Lenna Yost as a delegate to the International Congress against Alcoholism in 1921 and 1923. Also in 1921, she was the first woman appointed to a state office in WV with her appointment to the WV Board of Education. She advocated for the improvement of women’s colleges to meet national standards and achieve recognition by the American Association of University Women. She also pushed for the construction of a building at West Virginia University specifically for female students engaging in physical activities—this would be Elizabeth Moore Hall and Yost managed many of the details of the location, construction, and furnishing of the building in 1925. The building was going to be named for her, but she denied that honor. In addition, she served on the West Virginia Wesleyan Board of Trustees (1927-1942) and received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from that institution (1929). In addition to her work in improving female education, she helped establish the juvenile court system in WV and promoted the construction of the federal penitentiary for women at Alderson in Greenbrier Co.

The Yosts lived at times in Fairview, Clarksburg, Morgantown, Huntington, as well as Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Michigan. Late in life, and after the 1962 death of Ellis, Lenna Yost moved to northern Virginia where she died in May 1972 at the age of 94.

"D-12." ADD A&M .1851 Pre-1919 Circulars, Leaflets, etc 1851/1/7. West Virginia & Regional History Center. West Virginia University Libraries.

Effland, Anne Wallace. “The Woman Suffrage Movement in West Virginia, 1867-1920.” M. A. Thesis, West Virginia University, 1983. 

Howe, Barbara . Lenna Lowe Yost, The West Virginia Encyclopedia . December 9th 2015. Accessed December 16th 2021. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1393.

“Lenna Lowe Yost.” West Virginia Archives and History. Accessed September 23, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/history/archives/women/yo-st.html.

Rice, Connie Park. "Biography of Lenna Lowe Yost, 1878-1972." Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920. Accessed September 23, 2020. https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/d/1010596429.

"Suffragists for Conservation in All Phases." The West Virginian (Fairmont, WV) November 21st 1917. , 4-4.

The Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, WV) December 30th 1920.

Thurston, Karina G. “Lenna Lowe Yost, temperance, and the ratification of the woman suffrage amendment by West Virginia.” M.A. Thesis, West Virginia University, 2009.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenna_Lowe_Yost

Google Maps. Accessed March 7, 2022.

"Lenna Lowe Yost, Parkersburg News, October 1, 1916." Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. A West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit. Accessed February 15, 2022. http://archive.wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffrage17.html.

"May 7, 1972: Activist Lenna Lowe Yost Dies at 94." WV Public Broadcasting. May 7, 2020. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://www.wvpublic.org/radio/2020-05-07/may-7-1972-activist-lenna-lowe-yost-dies-at-94.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. CBS. National Woman's Dem. Clerk Mrs. Ellis A. Yost. , None. [Between 1905 and 1945] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016855656/. Accessed February 15, 2022.

The West Virginian. [volume], March 12, 1915, Page PAGE 10, Image 10. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1915-03-12/ed-1/seq-10/#date1=1900&index=2&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=16&x=12&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1.

The West Virginian. [volume], June 28, 1915, Page PAGE 6, Image 6. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1915-06-28/ed-1/seq-6/#date1=1900&index=10&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=16&x=12&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1.

The West Virginian. [volume], September 23, 1915, Image 1. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1915-09-23/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1900&index=0&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=16&x=12&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1.

The West Virginian. [volume], April 04, 1916, Image 1. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1916-04-04/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1915&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=12&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=12&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2.

The daily telegram. [volume], June 14, 1916, Page PAGE ELEVEN, Image 11. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85059715/1916-06-14/ed-1/seq-11/#date1=1915&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=7&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=12&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2.

The West Virginian. [volume], September 05, 1916, Image 1. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1916-09-05/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1915&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=19&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=12&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2.

The Wheeling intelligencer. [volume], November 07, 1916, Image 1. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092536/1916-11-07/ed-1/seq-1/#date1=1915&sort=relevance&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=9&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=12&x=11&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=3.

"WVESA Ratification Committee (Henrietta Romine, Cora Ebert, Julia Ruhl, Nancy Mann, Daisy Peadro, and Lenna Lowe Yost) with petitions for ratification. Huntington Advertiser, September 26, 1920." Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. A West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit. Accessed February 21, 2022. http://archive.wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffrage71.html.

The West Virginian. [volume], October 26, 1920, Page PAGE 8, Image 8. Chronicling America. Accessed February 16, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072054/1920-10-26/ed-1/seq-8/#date1=1900&index=4&rows=20&words=Lenna+Lowe+Yost&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=West+Virginia&date2=1920&proxtext=lenna+lowe+yost&y=16&x=12&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Volume #: Volume 20: Military,Civilian, Federal Employees and Dependents. Ancestry.com. U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. Accessed February 14, 2022.

"Biography: Ellis Asby Yost." Marion County WVGenWeb. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://www.wvgenweb.org/marion/bios/Yost_Ellis-Asby.html.

Morgantown, West Virginia, City Directory, 1915. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia. Sanborn Map Company, Nov, 1911. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn09427_005/.

"Down the River from Morgantown, W. Va." West Virginia OnView. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/052957. Edited by Kathleen Thompson.

"Mountaineer Field Construction Retaining Wall, North East Corner, West Virginia University." West Virginia OnView. West Virginia Regional & History Center. Accessed February 15, 2022. Edited by Kathleen Thompson.

" Mountaineer Field Construction View from South Stand Looking North East, Morgantown, W. Va." West Virginia OnView. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 15, 2022. https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/019406. Edited by Kathleen Thompson.

"Aerial View of Installation of Astro Turf on Mountaineer Field, West Virginia University." West Virginia OnView. West Virginia & Regional History Center. Accessed February 15, 2022. Edited by Kathleen Thompson.