Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Elizabeth Tasker Lowndes (1842-1922)
MSA SC 3520-2283
First Lady of Maryland, 1896-1900

The Lowndes family tree shares common branches with many of the most prominent lines in Maryland and Virginia including the Lloyds, the Bladens, the Platers, the Ogles, the Lees, and the Washingtons. 1 Their lineage can be traced back to Englishancestor, Richard Lowndes of Bostock House in Hassall, Cheshire. Richards's son, Christopher, Elizabeth Tasker Lowndes' great grandfather, settled in Prince George's County, Maryland in 1738. In 1747, he married Elizabeth Tasker, daughter of Hon. Benjamin Tasker who was the provincial governor of the colony at that time. 2

Heir to this prestigious ancestry, Elizabeth Tasker Lowndes, the daughter of Louisa Black and Richard Tasker Lowndes, was born on August 26, 1842. Elizabeth was the younger of the Lowndes' two daughters; her older sister was Eloise Lowndes Roman of Cumberland, Maryland. 3 Elizabeth's father, Richard Lowndes, was a prosperous merchant in the Cumberland area. Her mother was the second daughter of James Black of Allegany County. Elizabeth was born in the Lowndes family
townhome on Mechanic Street in the business district of Cumberland. She grew up in a newly built colonial mansion on Washington Street. 4

As a young lady, her parents sent her to school at the Patapsco Institute in Elllicot City, Maryland. 5 Built on property donated by the Ellicot family of Howard County, the Patapsco Institute was founded with the "firm [belief] in the advantages of a good education regardless of sex," and the school was a widely renowned leader in the development of "advanced female education" programs. 6

Elizabeth's education made her particularly suited for the position of First Lady. Allegany County historians, James W. Thomas and T. J. C. Williams, note that Elizabeth was known as a brilliant conversationalist, comfortable in any social situation, and able to speak on any number of subjects with accomplishment and grace. 7 These qualities were particularly important for a First Lady to possess since her role as Official Hostess usually required her to mingle with a diverse range of guests and to use her social skills to make everyone feel comfortable. This duty often translated into smoothing out ruffled feathers among political opponents and critics and often paved the way for the governor's legislative and judicial agenda by cultivating good relations among the politicians. 8 Thomas and Williams note with amazement that Elizabeth Tasker Lowndes was so socially adept that she was even able to successfully entertain and engage President Benjamin Harrrison, who was known by his contemporaries as socially unsophisticated and lacking in charisma. 9

Elizabeth got the chance to put her social skills to good use when she married Lloyd Lowndes, her first cousin, on December 2, 1869. 10 Mr. Lowndes, son of Marie Moore and Lloyd Lowndes, Sr., was elected Governor of Maryland in 1896 and he served until 1900. 11 Mr. and Mrs. Lowndes stayed in Annapolis during his entire administration. 12 Their frequent receptions in the executive mansion were covered in great detail by the local press. The Evening Capital claimed that
"Government House presents a cheerful, homelike appearance since the Lowndes moved into the residence." 13

In addition to entertaining, Mrs. Lowndes contributed her time to many charitable organizations. For instance, she supported the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She organized philanthropic activities through the Emanuel Protestant Episcopal Church. Elizabeth also was a charter member of the local Civic Club, which raised funds for the Associated Charities of Cumberland. In addition, she was a Maryland State Representative to the Board of Lady Governors of the Jamestown Exposition. She also held memberships with several patriotic and hereditary organizations including the Society of Colonial Dames and the Society of Colonial Manors and Colonial Governors. 14 Mrs. Lowndes also could be counted on in any situation where there was a need. For example, in 1911 she donated personal funds to aid in the purchase of a new fire engine for the city of Annapolis, even though she was no longer living in the state capital. 15

Mr. Lowndes died on January 8, 1905, soon after he left public office. 16 Mrs. Lowndes lived until January 4, 1922. She was survived by the couple's six children Lloyd, Richard Tasker, Charles Tasker, William Bladen, Elizabeth Lloyd, and Trasker. Ironically, the obituary from the Baltimore Sun fondly remembers and admires this apparently dynamic and animated woman more for her family blood lines than for her intelligence and savvy. Perhaps due to the backlash of sentiment against the push for women's rights and the sufferage movement in the early twentieth century, The Sun did not mention her tenure at the Patapsco Female Institute or her philanthropic endeavors, instead the paper merely stated that Elizabeth Tasker Lowndes:

                possessed the indefinable distinction that belonged
                to a day when breeding was more essential than
                bookishness, and when social culture ranked higher
                in woman's realm than univeristy degrees or political
                ambition . . . [she] was what is meant by true
                womanhood, by the rare combination of what used
                to be called high breeding with strength of
                character and spiritual power. 17

The preceding essay was taken from the Master's thesis of Maryland State Archives' Archival Research Intern, Emily A.
Oland. This thesis, entitled Running Mates: A Biographical Study of First Ladies and Official Hostesses of Maryland,
1777-1995, is copyright protected by Emily A. Oland and was submitted to the University of Maryland Graduate School,
Baltimore in August 1996 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a M.A. degree.

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