On Friday, June 29, 1883, the South Union Shakers were visited by Elizabeth Lyle Saxon.
Elder Harvey Eades recorded that visit in Record D, simply:
Visitor. Mrs. E. L. Saxon, a lecturer on Women’s rights
—a bright & sprightly & intelligent person.
Eades, who at age three had come to South Union in 1807 with his parents, was raised in a culture that demonstrated equality of the sexes. Male and female leaders governed Shaker villages on both a spiritual and a temporal basis. His complimentary journal entry speaks to that acceptance at a time when women’s rights was still in its infancy and by no means widely accepted. Susan B. Anthony’s failed right-to-vote amendment had been proposed just five years earlier.
Elizabeth Lyle Saxon, born in Greenville, Tennessee in 1832, was known as a gifted speaker, a prolific author, and a proponent of social reform. She spoke to large audiences across the nation and even accompanied Susan B. Anthony on a speaking tour through New England to raise awareness. Saxon died in Memphis in 1915, five years before the ratification of the 19th amendment.