Cynthia Sanborn Ware, a firebrand for civil and women’s rights and a Democratic Party activist, died Wednesday at Poydras Home. She was 90.
An Uptown woman who spoke fluent French, never wore trousers and never left her house without her lipstick on, Ms. Ware was rarely seen without her broad-brimmed straw hat on which she pinned a button declaring, “Uppity Women Unite.” She kept a stash of extra buttons in her purse for strangers who asked her about her own.
“She was always out there marching and picketing and lobbying in Baton Rouge and Washington,” said her daughter, Cynthia S. Putnam. “She enlisted us all.”
Ms. Ware was born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1912 and grew up in Sewanee, Tenn., and New Orleans. She attended Louise S. McGehee School in New Orleans and Le Chatelard in Montreux, Switzerland.
In 1935 she married Charles Magill Smith, with whom she had three daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 1951, and she married Sewanee neighbor and widower Capt. William Lynch Ware in 1966.
Ms. Ware never forgot the day in 1920 when a young Tennessee legislator named Harry Burns cast the last vote needed to ratify the 19th amendment. A few days later, women were granted the right to vote. Ms. Ware was 7.
“I was only a little girl, but I knew something was going on,” Ms. Ware told The Times-Picayune in 1995 for a story commemorating the 75th anniversary of women getting the vote. “There were no men in sight, and Main Street was full of ladies congratulating themselves, whooping and hollering.”
Ms. Ware went on to campaign for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and was an active member of the Independent Women’s Organization, the League of Women Voters, the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Louisiana Women’s Political Caucus.
Ms. Ware also fought for access to birth control and for abortion rights, eventually joining Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the Reproductive Action League.
Ms. Ware also fought to reopen the Audubon Park swimming pool in 1969 after it was closed to avoid a court order to allow black people to swim there. The complex, just off Magazine Street, was torn down in 1997.
“It was such a glaring, horrible thing, closing the pool rather than integrating it,” said Ms. Putnam, who brought her two young daughters to swim in the pool the day it reopened. “After Dr. King was killed, we all just felt so helpless, we were moved to action.”
In her later years, Ms. Ware donated money to Democratic Party causes and hosted receptions for candidates.
She was also a longtime member of Le Petit Salon and Les Causeries du Lundi.
Until she moved to Poydras Home three years ago, Ms. Ware lived in a geodesic dome she and her husband built on Dominican Street in the late 1970s. The walls of her den were decorated with plaques, certificates and black-and-white photographs, including one with her posing with former Mayor Moon Landrieu at the reopening of the Audubon Park Pool, and another with women’s activist Gloria Steinem.
On her piano she kept a small metal statue of Susan B. Anthony waving an American flag, and on her sofa she kept an embroidered pillow with her credo: “Uppity Women Unite.”
Besides Ms. Putnam of Covington, survivors include two other daughters, Meredith S. Ramsay of Brookeville, Md., and Tamara S. Gamble of Charlottesville, Va.; a sister, Marymor S. Cravens of Sewanee, Tenn.; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Graveside services and burial will be held Tuesday at University Cemetery in Sewanee, Tenn. Bultman Funeral Home is in charge of local arrangements.
Source: Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) – Sunday, October 20, 2002