A big election in the middle of a pandemic: This Shawnee, OK teacher gave her life to make a difference

Great State

SHAWNEE, Okla. (KFOR) — The city has 36 parks within its civic border.

A lot of residents think this shady space is just an extension of Red Bud Park, but Marylin Bradford and Tom Terry have both worked hard lately at making sure Larch-Miller Park and the name it carries is properly recognized.

“Tom has really been the one who started working with different groups here in Shawnee,” credits Marilyn.

Aloysius Larch-Miller was a candy maker’s daughter.

She grew up in Shawnee and became a teacher in town, but she was also very energetic about politics.

Larch-Miller sold Liberty Bonds, volunteered for the local Red Cross and, in early 1920, was the State Secretary for the Oklahoma Women’s Suffrage Association.

Marylin Bradford contends, “She was really in charge of trying to get Oklahoma to vote on the 19th Amendment.”

At that year’s Pottowatomie County Democratic Convention, Larch-Miller had planned to debate an opponent of her cause.

“A week earlier she had come down with the Spanish Flu,” says Bradford.

But she went anyway.

Bradford continues, “On the way home, her breathing got worse. She developed pneumonia and she died two days later.”

The whole state mourned her passing.

The governor, who opposed women’s suffrage in the past, flew capitol flags at half-staff and turned around to call a special election for later that month.

“On February 28, 1920 the Oklahoma State Legislature approved the 19th Amendment.”

In late August, 2020, the city re-dedicated this little park.

Tom and Marilyn both believe Larch-Miller’s unfortunate death helped sway the vote 100 years earlier.

“She lived pretty close to this park didn’t she?” queries a park visitor?

“Yes,” answers Tom Terry. “She lived about a half a block away.”

In a shady corner of her hometown, amidst another pandemic, and on the eve of another big election, a teacher’s voice speaks again.

Someone who gave her life for the right to vote would probably do the same thing again.

Larch-Miller never married or had children of her own, but many of her extended family members still live in Oklahoma.

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