LOUISE ALOYS SMITH
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born: July 29, 1917, Lovelock, Nevada
Died: May 12, 1999, Lovelock, Nevada
Maiden Name: Baptized Louise Aloys Smith (aka Aloys Smith)
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian (American/Irish)
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
San Francisco, California, Carson City and Lovelock, Nevada
Major Fields of Work: Military service, Operatic soprano, Assemblywoman, Electric company employee, Little theater co-founder and director, Board member for the County Library and Marzan House Museum and Nevada Woman of the Year.
Louise Aloys Smith was the daughter of one of the Lovelock’s well-known couples, Dr. Eugene Kneeland Smith and Kathleen O’Sullivan Smith. Dr. Smith had his own hospital in his home until he directed construction of the old Pershing General Hospital.
A bright and creative child, Aloys Smith spent much of her early childhood at the home of Ruth Hollingsworth Sullivan, Lovelock’s dedicated piano teacher. It was from Ruth Sullivan that Aloys Smith learned to appreciate music and to become proficient on the piano and organ. Many years later she was music director, organist and operatic soprano at most weddings and funerals at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church as well as other community events.
Ruth Sullivan’s daughter, Leola Hollingsworth Armstrong and Aloys became life-long friends. Aloys Smith’s father delivered Leola at the Hollingsworth home in Lovelock when Aloys was three. The girls had many spirited childhood adventures together as they attended schools in Pershing County and studied music after school. During the Depression, both girls helped those in need. Mrs. Armstrong later commented, “Neither of us realized that there was a Depression. We shared what we had. Our parents raised vegetables in the backyard and other crops to help others.” In the 1960s and 70s, one would pass the Smith home and see her beautiful garden in front of the old brick house.
After high school and prior to World War II, Aloys Smith went to San Francisco to become an operatic soprano. When her mother became ill, she gave up her dream of an opera career, returned to Lovelock and cared for her mother until her death.
As World War II progressed, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1943. She achieved the rank of sergeant while serving as a recruiter and rehabilitation counselor in military hospitals until her discharge in 1946. During this time, she learned compassion and the importance of community service, according to Armstrong. As a WAC, she was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and American Campaign Medal. After WWII many women returned to homemaker duties, but Aloys searched for opportunities to apply the knowledge she gained in the Army. She decided to put her Army experience to use and ran for assemblyman from Pershing County . She was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 1949 and re-elected in 1951. As an assemblyman she served on eight standing committees including Veterans Affairs, Legislative Functions, Social Welfare, State Library and State Publicity.
According to the 2001 Assembly Resolution No. 8, “Leadership positions at the time were awarded to women mainly for ceremonial purposes. However, following her re-election in 1951, Louis (Aloys) had the honor of being the first woman to be elected as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Assembly by her fellow assemblymen.”
She returned to Lovelock where she had 30 years of dedicated employment with Sierra Pacific Power Company as the mainstay person in the company’s office. Many remember as small toddlers going into the office with a parent and receiving a lollipop or other goodie from her as a special treat.
Community service played a paramount part in the Lovelock portion of her life. She was active in the Pink Ladies Hospital Auxiliary, American Legion Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, Lovelock Study Club, and Beta Sigma Phi, an international women’s social, cultural and service organization. She brought her knowledge, love of books and current affairs to the Lovelock Study Club, a women’s group devoted to studies of various cultures, countries and values different to those in the United States.
As a co-founder of Lovelock’s Desert Little Theater, she brought culture to the small community in the form of plays. She acted in the capacity of performer and director for more than a decade of performances by the amateur theater group according to the Assembly Resolution. Although a taskmaster, the actors and behind the scene production crew looked forward to working in her productions. One unnamed actor years later said he missed the fun and accomplishments he felt when appearing in the plays. Some of the productions were done for charitable causes within the community, he said.
Reading and literacy were important to her. Once a week she took time out of her busy schedule, to read stories to Pershing County children at the Library’s story-hour. She also volunteered her time with the adult literary program. As a member of the Pershing County Library’s Board of Trustees for many years, she was instrumental in obtaining funds for the present Pershing County Library building. Prior to this construction, the library was housed in the downstairs area of the County Courthouse.
History was also important to this generous woman. When the Marzan House, Pershing County ‘s museum, opened in 1984, she was a founding member of the Board of Trustees. She also donated some of the items that can be seen in the museum today. Although in poor health in the last years of her life, she found time to take an active part in community activities at the library, the museum and the hospital. In 1988 Aloys Smith was given the Women of the Year award given annually to a Nevada Woman with a lifetime of community service and achievement.
Recently she was recognized for membership at the Women’s Memorial for Women In Military Service at Arlington National Cemetery and is a part of their Living History program.
Following her death in 1999, the 2001 Nevada State Assembly passed a resolution (No. 8) on April 5, commending their former fellow assemblyman for a job well done. It states that Louise Aloys Smith will long be remembered for her dedication to her community and this state.
Biographical sketch by Carol Marshall Clanton.
Sources of Information:
- Clanton, Carol, article, Lovelock Review-Miner, April 9, 2001.
- Killfoil , Frances , Interview on Louise Aloys Smith, April 7, 2001.
- Marshall, Carol, article, Lovelock Review Miner, week of April 15, 1988.
- State of Nevada , Concurrent Resolution No. 8, adopted by the Assembly, April 5, 2001.
- Video tape by Leola Armstrong, et al., April 6, 2001 at Nevada State Assembly Building.