A leader of the first generation of southern feminists and social activists, Lide Smith Meriwether was president of the Tennessee Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, serving from 1884 until 1897, and then as honorary president for life. Having organized the first Equal Rights Association in Memphis in 1889, she served as president of the Tennessee Equal Rights Association from 1897 until 1900, when she also was made honorary president for life of that group.
Lide Smith was born in Virginia and educated at the Emma Willard Seminary in Pennsylvania. Prior to her marriage, she taught school. In 1856 she married Niles Meriwether, with whom she had three daughters. In 1872 Lide Meriwether began her activism on behalf of women with the publication of Soundings, a periodical dedicated to bringing respectable women to the rescue of prostitutes, who were pictured as victims rather than moral untouchables. During the 1880s she traveled the state founding WCTU local organizations, including unions of African American women. She lobbied for prohibition, for raising the legal age of consent, for a police matron in Memphis, and most notably for woman suffrage. In her suffrage petition of 1895, she argued against the classification of women with minors, aliens, paupers, criminals, and idiots and advocated legal reform that would give women title to their own clothing and earnings, guardianship of their children, and the right to vote.
Marsha Wedell, Elite Women and the Reform Impulse in Memphis, 1875-1915 (1992)