1919: The Most Distinguished Woman in Lafayette Square
While paging through John Albury Bryan’s book about Lafayette Square, I noted a line in which he wrote that the most distinguished couple to have ever lived in Lafayette Square may have been Phillip North Moore and his wife Eva Perry Moore. This would come as high praise for a neighborhood that hosted famous doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, publishers and business moguls. That most of these well-known residents were men comes at their expense, as none are ‘couples.’
So let’s back up a bit on this, the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, and look at an early mover who lived here, and her husband.
It’s difficult to write about Eva Perry Moore without getting into a list somewhere. Her accomplishments and service were so far flung that one has to wonder what she did in her spare time.
She was originally from Rockford, IL; graduated Vassar College, and married young mining engineer Philip North Perry in 1879. They began their married life in Leadville, Colorado in 1879, as he built and superintended a smelter there, then prospected on his own until 1882. In 1880, Leadville was only two years old, but boasted a population of 15,000 and produced $15,000,000 in gold silver and lead per year. It was a wild and nearly lawless place, and the Moores viewed it as a great opportunity to work in an unstructured land. Considering their organizational skills and activities, it was a skill they picked up along the way.
The couple migrated to Kentucky with Philip’s work, then St. Louis in 1890, and they moved into 1520 Mississippi Avenue in Lafayette Square two years later, living there until 1903.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs was formed in 1890 during the Progressive era. This movement essentially believed that class warfare, poverty, racism and violence could best be addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and decent working conditions. This would displace the theory of social Darwinism that dominated from the 1870s until then. Eva was on the cutting edge of a movement defining itself and growing as she actively nurtured it. While attempting to coalesce a united group from the varied interests and approaches of the movement, she served as secretary treasurer for the Federation from 1894-1900, vice president from 1904-1908, and president from 1908-1912. Eva travelled the country, giving speeches, occasionally sharing the bill and the stage with Presidents Roosevelt and Taft.
Eva’s husband Philip said, “If Mrs. Moore ever runs for President of the United States, she can count on my vote.”
But holy Toledo; she was director of the Provident Association from 1895 on, and at various times, president of the Visiting Nurses Association, and National Council of Women, vice president of the National Conservation Congress, St. Louis Symphony, and American Peace Society, chair of the Municipal Nurses Board, chaplain of the Daughters of American Colonists, and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. During World War I, Eva organized the National League for Women’s Service, coordinating war work on the home front. After the war, she became a leading advocate for the League of Nations and peace efforts.
A writer in San Francisco watched her speak and described her as “a distinguished presence, fresh, calm and astute; with tact, decision and nicely gauged cordiality. She has admirable control of a pleasing voice, and speaks much better and more to the point than the average man who trusts himself in public.”
By 1914, Eva and Philip relocated to 3125 Lafayette Ave (now home to Schnur Funeral Home). She was in Who’s Who that year, formally affiliated with 17 organizations “and various philanthropies.” Toss in that she was a member of the Superior Jury for the 1904 Worlds Fair, and delegate to the National Child LaborCommission and National Convention on Prison Labor.
After the vote was secured for women, Eva became vice president of the International Council of Women, holding that role from 1920-1930. Despite her network of associations, she consistently strove to be apolitical, and was quoted as saying, “We have no platform unless it is the care of women and children, and the home, the latter meaning the four walls of the city as well as the four walls of brick and mortar,”
She somehow found time to mother two children, who did well in life too.
Eva was married to Philip North Moore for 51 years. By that time they lived at 3414 Hawthorne Boulevard. Their golden anniversary was fitting for a couple that started out in a gold boom town. Over 400 invitations were sent for the grand reception and ‘musicale’ at their home.
Typical of so many busy and long married couples, they lived to ripe old ages and died a year apart, Philip in 1930 at age 80, and Eva in 1931 at 78. Each had long biographical obits in the local newspapers.
Philip, no slouch himself, was a member of the State Bureau of Geology and Mines for 23 years, and president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers in 1917. Also, during World War I, he served on the National Research Council, and after the war, from 1919-1931, on the War Materials Relief Commission. He was a member of the Round Table, St Louis Academy of Science and Noonday Club. All this while engaged in a career that involved 50,000 miles of travel per year throughout North America. Along the way he managed placer mining in Montana, iron companies in Alabama and Kentucky, and a zinc mine in Oklahoma
Eva’s favorite poems were by Henry Van Dyke, and her favorite of those was entitled “Work.”
Let me but find it in my heart to say,
When vagrant wishes beckon me astray,
“This is my work; my blessing, not my doom;
“Of all who live, I am the one by whom
“This work can best be done in the right way.”
That appears to have been an accurate reflection of her guiding principle.
During the Moore’s stay at 1520 Mississippi, the no-good totally awful tornado struck South St. Louis. The lovely turret steeple you see today looks flattened, and the north wall is largely missing. They persevered through that, and it’s a tribute to them that they stayed in the neighborhood for another seven years. Others took the cue and their insurance settlements, to leg it west.
The house was originally built as an up and down units duplex. Although J.A. Bryan indicated the Moores living there as early as 1892, other records point to original construction in 1895. In either case, by the 1950’s it was a rooming house, and in a disrepair consistent with much of the neighborhood. Paul and Susan Sauer, who bought the home in 2000 spent years bringing it back to its Gilded Age style. It holds an enviable spot looking out on Lafayette Park.
The 19th amendment took a lot of pushing uphill to get accomplished. Eva Perry Moore was integral to that. It’s a lot easier today, to exercise that empowerment. Please celebrate your vote in November
Thanks to research sources, including:
St Louis Post-Dispatch; January 20,1930; Page 2
St Louis Post-Dispatch; April 29, 1931; Page 3
Eva Perry Moore from Who’s Who of 1914 1915
Wikipedia entry for Eva Perry Moore and for Philip North Moore
The poems of Henry Van Dyke can be found at https://www.poemhunter.com/henry-van-dyke/
AIME profile from records for 1917.
Lafayette Square by John Albury Bryan; self-published; 1969.