About Lois L. Felker (1851–1928)
Lois L. Felker, Grand Rapids Herald, October 18, 1905.
On September 1, 1903, Lois Teesdale Felker ran for the Library Commission of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Governance of the library had been under the control of the Grand Rapids Board of Education until a 1903 charter amendment created a separate library commission elected by popular vote. While no women won seats in the first Grand Rapids Library Commission election, five ran: Mary M. Bryant, Ellen Dean, Alde L. T. Blake, Lois Felker, and Cornelia Steketee Hulst. Felker herself received 1,323 votes, a total which put her in twelfth place out of the twenty-two candidates running that year. Felker ran again in 1904, polling 1,253 votes to her opponent Cornelius L. Harvey’s 2,997. Even though she did not win her seat, Felker left an important legacy by taking on leadership roles in some of the most influential women’s clubs in Grand Rapids and Michigan.
Lois Teesdale Felker was born on August 15, 1851, in Constantine, Michigan. She graduated from Albion College with a B.S. degree in 1873. In 1875 she married Henry J. Felker, a lawyer, and settled in Grand Rapids.
Like so many women of her time, Teesdale Felker played an active role in the women’s club movement. From 1879 to at least 1880, she served as president of the Seventh Ward Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). A charter member of the West Side Ladies’ Literary Club, Felker served as the club’s president for at least fifteen years. But she was also interested in charitable work, serving as president of the Women’s Home Missionary Society and sitting on the board of the society’s Deaconess Home.
In 1896, Felker was elected vice president of the Grand Rapids City Federation of Women’s Clubs. From 1898 to 1900, she served on the board of directors of the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs and from 1902 to 1904 she served as its first vice president. Rising ever further, In 1905, Felker was elected president of the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1906 she represented the federation at the convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in St. Paul, Minnesota. There she delivered an address detailing the work of the State Federation in Michigan, which highlighted advocacy work for child labor laws, work with the forestry commission, and campaigning for juvenile reforms. Felker was also among a cohort of Stated Federation delegates sent to Lansing to lobby the 1908 Michigan Constitutional Convention to remove the word “male” from the state constitution. Removing this reference to gender, they believed, would give Michigan women a constitutional basis from which to argue for their right to vote.