Linda Warfel Slaughter

Honored by:Elizabeth Dobbs
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Linda Warfel Slaughter
Bismarck, North Dakota

Linda Warfel, born in Ohio, began her life of writing and organizing when she graduated from Oberlin College and went to Kentucky and Tennessee as a missionary to organize schools and churches for the freedmen. During this period, she published a book of poems, Early Efforts (reviewed by Godey's Lady's Book in 1868), Summerings in the South and Freedmen of the South.

In 1868, shortly before she was to sail for India on missionary work, Linda Warfel met Dr. Benjamin Franklin Slaughter, an army surgeon. Dr. Slaughter, although from an established southern family, had joined the Union Army when he finished medical school in Kentucky and stayed in the army following the Civil War. After their marriage, they were ordered first to Ft. Rice (Dakota territory) in 1871 and then in 1872 further up the Missouri River to Camp Hancock, which was to become Bismarck, North Dakota.

In the Dakota territory, Linda Slaughter set about various public works with her characteristic vigor, even as she raised three daughters. She was still living in a tent when she started Bismarck's first Sunday school in 1872; in 1873, she opened the Bismarck Academy, which quickly became the public school. That same year, she was appointed Burleigh County's first Superintendent of Schools, became Bismarck's first postmistress, and founded the Ladies Historical Society in Bismarck. She was its president until it merged with the State Historical Society in 1889. She was a charter member of the DAR and in the 1890s was active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In 1888, she was the State Vice-President of the National Woman Suffrage Association and, in 1889, a member of its Executive Committee. Through that group, she became friends with Susan B. Anthony and spent time in Washington, D.C.. At Omaha, Nebraska in 1892, as a delegate for the People's Party, she was the first woman to vote for a presidential candidate in a national convention. She was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C. in 1895.

She continued to write, sometimes under the name "Zezula" ("The Squaw Who Helps"), which had been given to her by Indian women near Ft. Rice whom she helped when she accompanied her husband in his treatment of wounded Indians. Among her writings are a series of letters, "The Dolly Varden Letters," for the St. Paul Daily Pioneer, and a series of pamphlets for the Northern Pacific Railroad; both describe life in the Dakotas. In 1902, she wrote the words to the state song. After a period of illness, Linda Slaughter died in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 1911.

For more information on Linda Slaughter's life, see the Slaughter Papers in the North Dakota State Archives Bismarck; Linda W. Slaughter's Fortress to Farm, ed. by her granddaughter, Hazel Eastman (New York: Exposition Press, 1972), first published as a serial in the Bismarck Tribune, 1893-94; The American Woman's Gazetteer, Lynn Sherr & Jurate Kazickas (New York: Bantam, 1976); Mothers of Achievement in American History, 1776-1976 (Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1976).

Elizabeth A. Dobbs
Professor of English
Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa
(Linda Slaughter's great-granddaughter)

Submitted on 3/3/95