Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Thirteen - Virginia Suffrage

Buoyed by the film I watched on PBS and the upcoming celebrations this weekend that honor women's suffrage (obtaining the right to vote), I thought it only fitting that my Thursday Thirteen this week speak to this issue. This is a particularly frightening time as politicians continue to take steps to erode this most precious right.

Here are some Virginia women who fought for the right to vote and a little information about how it went in this state:

1. Anna Whitehead Bodeker, who came to Virginia from New Jersey, in 1870 organized the Virginia State Woman Suffrage Association in Richmond. She tried to vote in 1871 but was rebuked.

2. Orra Gray Langhorne of Lynchburg in the 1890s attempted to organize another suffrage league, but it was unsuccessful.

3. In 1909, a group of Virginia women joined together to form the Equal Suffrage League. The leader of those women was Lila Meade Valentine, an activist and reformer in Richmond.

4. Valentine was joined by Mary Johnston, a writer from Botetourt County, VA (where I live). Johnston authored To Have and To Hold, the #1 bestseller of 1900, and 36 other books.

5. Ellen Glasgow, a Richmond writer, also joined this group. Her many novels were social tales, created to illustrate the plight of southern women.

6. Kate Langley Bosher, another writer of social books, also joined. 

7. Adele Clark, an artist and dean of women at the College of William and Mary, served as an officer in the group.

8. Nora Houston, an international artist, also joined.

9. Kate Waller Barrett, a physician, author, and social reformer, was the other leader of the movement.

10. "Virginia suffragists employed a variety of techniques to enlist women to their cause, making speeches across the state (often from decorated automobiles), renting booths at fairs, and distributing "Votes for Women" buttons. By canvassing house to house, distributing leaflets, and speaking in public, the members of the league sought to educate Virginia's citizens and legislators and to win their support for woman suffrage. Beginning in 1914, the group published its own monthly newspaper, the Virginia Suffrage News. (Lily Meade) Valentine persuaded a group of Richmond businessmen to form the Men's Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. The state archivist Hamilton J. Eckenrode was among those who signed a resolution in support of woman suffrage in 1912, arguing that the state constitution should be amended "so as to enable Virginia Women to vote on equal terms with Virginia men." Eight years later, his successor as state archivist, Morgan P. Robinson, registered women to vote in Richmond. (Mary) Johnston visited women's colleges to rally faculty and students to the cause. Soon local leagues sprang up across the state." - Encyclopedia Virginia

11. "Virginia's suffragists argued that women were intelligent, sensible, tax-paying citizens, and therefore deserved to cast ballots. The home and the world in the early years of the twentieth century were overlapping, not separate, spheres, and women had special concerns and interests that were being poorly addressed by male legislators. Virginia suffragists staunchly maintained that women, in order to be good mothers, needed to be good citizens. "Home is not contained within the four walls of an individual home," suffragists argued; instead, "home is the community." When antisuffragists argued that men were the commonwealth's natural-born leaders, intellectually and physically superior to their female helpmates, suffragists countered that women could add valuable insight and energy to solving a number of problems largely ignored by politicians, including education, health reform, and child labor. The woman suffrage movement worked toward equal rights for women as citizens, as well as the right to vote. It was perhaps more important that the movement was building change on the foundation of a new, self-developed, economically independent womanhood." - Encyclopedia Virginia

12. Mary Johnston, through her suffragist efforts, became the first woman to address the House of Delegates in Virginia. As a suffragist, Johnston led the way for quiet rebellion. Though she has been described as shy and retiring, she ventured upon the Virginia House floor to beseech the gentlemen of the state congress to give women the right to vote. In 1912 she spoke before a conference of governors of all the states in the union, requesting the right to vote for women.

13. Virginia suffragists succeeded in bringing the issue to the floor of the General Assembly three times between 1912 and 1916, but the vote never came close to passage. - Encyclopedia Virginia

Women in Virginia obtained the right to vote when the rest of the women in the nation did: 1920. The Virginia General Assembly DID NOT RATIFY THE 19th AMENDMENT (which gave women the right to vote in 1920) UNTIL 1952 (just 61 years ago).

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 283rd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. With the attacks on women's rights lately, I suspect there are a significant number of men who would like women to lose their right to vote.

    It's tragic that the concept of equality is still so precarious in supposedly "modern" times.

  2. Wow. 32 years to ratify the 19th Amendment?
    Thanks for a lot of great info.

  3. Great info here. It was an important movement in the UK, too, with the Suffragettes.

  4. Thanks. I love learning and it's cool to honor those who worked for the good of generations of daughters to come.

  5. Neat. Knowing your history keeps it relevant. Somewhere I saw a list of women in science who made discoveries. Not for the life of me can I find it again. The internet eats its children.

  6. Great post, Anita! I find it ironic that it was a republican who put forth the House resolution to approve the Susan Anthony Amendment, considering the repugnant things that party has been doing the past decade or two. It's also ironic that Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th amendment (in 1919 -- it took more than a year for the amendment to be certified), when we now have a rep. governor intent on making it more difficult for people to vote. Not only are they still trying to ram through a voter ID law, now he wants to disallow same-day voter registration and turn registration over to the DMV -- despite heavy opposition by county and city clerks and the DMV (which has been closing offices across the state and has long enough lines for vehicle-related business). Not to mention the general population being opposed. He is still adamant, despite it being pointed out to him that same-day registration done by trained volunteers costs nothing, whereas disallowing it would mean overtime for clerks, and would cost around $5 million dollars.

  7. Very interesting, Anita. I was fascinated to see that so many of the influential Virginia suffragists were writers. How wonderful to be able to change minds and hearts with your writing!

  8. Very cool post. I love to vote and take every opportunity that is presented to use this precious gift!

  9. Now and then, my kids and I talk about the struggle for human rights. This does a good job of providing some specifics.

  10. 61 years ago - amazing. I live in Virginia and I am thankful for the artistry of the women who have paved the way for others. Thanks for sharing.

    The Food Temptress

  11. I'm very proud of and grateful to all these women.


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