Journalist for the short-lived Mississippi Woman Voter and the national Woman’s Press.
Lucy Somerville Howorth was born in 1895 in Greenville, Mississippi. Her mother was a well-known temperance and woman suffrage leader. She attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia in 1912. After graduating, she was an instructor at the school from 1916-1917. In 1918, she entered graduate studies at Columbia University in New York.
While living in New York, Howorth worked in a war plant where she saw first-hand how women workers were mistreated. She then worked as a research assistant for the Industrial Department of Young Women’s Christian Association. This work involved attending conferences, organizing working girls’ clubs, and speaking about the conditions for working women in factories.
Howorth applied to law school at Columbia but was rejected because she was a woman. She then entered the law school at the University of Mississippi in 1920 and graduated in 1922. In the early years, her practice struggled due to the difficulty for a woman lawyer to get clients. During her legal career, Howorth was appointed to the Mississippi Board of Bar Examiners. She was also appointed as the commissioner of a U.S. District Court.
She married Joseph Marion Howorth in 1928.
In 1931, Howorth was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives as a representative of Hinds County. Howorth moved to Washington, D.C. in 1934 where she was named to the Board of Appeals of the Veteran Administration. Howorth was active for many years in the National Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) and was program coordinator for the BPW from 1937 to 1939.
In 1944, she was the keynote speaker at the White House Conference on Women in Post-War Policy Planning. In 1943, a new law made it no longer possible for her to serve on the Board of Appeals, and she became an attorney for the Veterans Administration. In 1947, she served as chairwoman of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Committee on the Economic and Legal Status of Women. According to historian Martha Swain, Howorth made “her greatest impact on AAUW policy with her leadership at the national convention in 1949 to open membership to black women. ” In 1949, she became assistant general counsel for the War Claims Commission under Harry Truman’s presidency, becoming general counsel in 1953. In 1956 to 1958, she served on a legal task force for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Commission on Governmental Security, and she frequently stood in for the commission’s vice-chairman, Mississippi Senator John C. Stennis, in his absence.
According to Martha H. Swain, Howorth “enjoyed talking to historians who wanted to know about her life. She spent many hours preparing her papers for their future use. Recognition of her life’s work came in 1983 when Radcliffe College gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award along with six other women, including Mississippi’s acclaimed author Eudora Welty.”
Lucy Howorth died at age 102 on August 23, 1997. She was the last survivor, according to Swain, of the “Women of the New Deal,” leaving a legacy for countless women of her state and nation.
- Lucy Somerville Howorth: Lawyer, Politician, and Feminist. Martha H. Swain, Mississippi History Now (2009)