Kate Estelle Heflin Lemaire
By Dana R. Bennett, PhD, Reno, Nevada
Role in Women’s Suffrage: Corresponding Secretary, Battle Mountain Chapter of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1912-1914
Kate Estelle Heflin was born on January 21, 1875, in Maryville, Missouri. Soon after her birth, the Heflin family moved to Austin, Nevada, where Kate spent her childhood. When she was 12, the family moved to Battle Mountain where their economic prospects were more promising.
After completing high school, Kate attended Napa College, later known as College of the Pacific, in California, for three years. Upon her return to Battle Mountain, she was certified to teach both elementary and high school. She took a job teaching grades one through eight in the nearby mining camp of Lewis.
Kate and her mother, Mary Heflin, were instrumental in the construction of the Methodist Church, the first church building in Battle Mountain. An 1891 concert that featured Kate’s singing raised funds for the work. The building was consecrated in 1895 and on February 7, 1897, was the location for her wedding to Louis A. Lemaire.
The grandson of one of Battle Mountain’s early merchants, Louis operated the Lemaire Store until his death in 1959. In the meantime, he held many public offices, including school trustee, county commissioner, and state senator. Louis and Kate Lemaire were prominent members of the Battle Mountain community. A son, Louis E., was born in 1900, and a daughter, Alice was born in 1909. Their descendants continue to live in Battle Mountain today.
In 1912, Kate Lemaire was one of the Battle Mountain women invited to meet with Mabel Vernon who was traveling Nevada to organize local chapters of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society. At that meeting, Kate was elected Corresponding Secretary of the Battle Mountain chapter, an office she continued to hold when the chapter was reorganized in 1913.
The chapter members hosted many dances and other events to encourage the town’s male voters to support suffrage for women. First, those voters were needed to send pro-suffrage legislators to the state capital and then to vote in favor of the suffrage amendment to the state constitution. Many of these pleasant and persuasive events were held in Lemaire Hall, which consisted of the second floor of the Lemaire Store and often served as a community gathering place. The Battle Mountain chapter successfully won the votes they sought.
Active in local affairs most of her life, “Aunt Kate,” as she was fondly known by the community, passed away in Battle Mountain on May 11, 1968.
- Dana R. Bennett, All Roads Lead to Battle Mountain: A Small Town in the Heart of Nevada, 1869-1969, 2014.
- Austin E. Hutcheson, ed, “The Story of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Campaign: Memoirs of Anne Martin,” University of Nevada Bulletin, 1948.
- Phyllis Rieck, “Biography of Mrs. Louis A. Lemaire, Battle Mountain, Nevada,” unpublished manuscript, c. 1951.
- U.S. Census and other public records, Ancestry.com.Obituary, Reno Evening Gazette, 11 May 1968.