Tag Archives: Women’s History

Virginia Suffrage News

IVirginia Suffrage News was a monthly newspaper published by the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Beginning with its first issue in October 1914, the paper aimed to link the many suffrage leagues throughout the Commonwealth in their common mission of acquiring the right to vote for women.

This goal Iwas summed up in a foreword to the first issue by Lila Meade Valentine: “For this is pre-eminently a cooperative movement- one in which good teamwork is required- one in which we must all pull together with a right good will. To do this effectively, we need the stimulus of the exchange of ideas, we need to inform ourselves of the activities of our local leagues, as well of the larger movement outside. [The Virginia Suffrage News] should bind us together in one harmonious whole.”1

 

Mrs. Mary Pollard (G. Harvey) Clarke was the editor-in-chief of the paper, with Alice Overbey Taylor managing publication.

Imaged at the Library of VirginiaMay 2017

In January 1915, just three issues into publication of Virginia Suffrage News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “The Virginia Suffrage News, the official organ of the State organization, which she [the editor] says is ‘suffering from suspended animation’ just now, but will resume publication in the near future.”2

The Library of Virginia holds originals of issues 1-3, published in October, November, and December 1914. While it is unsure if publication ever resumed, and how many issues were published in total, it seems likely that the only issues published are the three in the Library of Virginia’s collection. These issues are now digitized and can be read on Virginia Chronicle.

The paper followed a consistent format. Each issue contained editorials, dispatches from the various Virginia suffrage leagues, national news items relating to women’s suffrage, and information regarding both past and upcoming suffrage … read more »

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Mary Johnston: A Suffragist of, and Ahead of, Her Time

This gallery contains 9 photos.

By Claire Johnson, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

Mary Johnston, circa 1908Mary Johnston, born 1870 in Buchanan, Virginia, was a prolific author of 23 books, outspoken suffragist, and founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Her most critically successful books were historical romantic fiction, though her writing also focused on her personal beliefs, including women’s rights, and later, race and lynching.

In 1909, Mary Johnston, Ellen Glasgow, and Lily Meade Valentine founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. On November 20, 1909, the inaugural meeting was held at Anne Clay Crenshaw’s home at 919 West Franklin. At the meeting, Valentine was chosen as president by the group of women in attendance.1

Fittingly, the site of this first meeting, purchased by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the 1960s, is now Crenshaw House, the home of the department of Gender,
Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, The News Leader, November 23, 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not long after this first meeting, on December 12, 1909, the Times-Dispatch published Johnston’s essay, “The Status of Women.” Johnston believed women should gain the vote for multiple reasons, but a common thread in her writing was the idea that throughout human history, men placed an undue burden on women. Johnston expands her theory, writing that long before men had gained social power over women, cavemen had seen the advantages of selecting a mate “not so physically strong as himself, upon whom, therefore, he could impose his will.” In her article, she detailed at length what this “stone” placed on women entailed:

[An] enormous top-heavy mass of conventions, senseless restrictions, superstitions, sentimentalities, mock modesties, rules of conduct dating from nowhere on earth, but her seraglio experience, sequestration from healthful activities, premiums on mental indolence, a vast incubus of bric-a-brac and filigree teachings, of discriminating laws, taboos, taxes, vetoes, and

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A Much Obliged and Humble Servant: Clementina Rind’s Virginia Gazette

Sept. 22, 1774 Va GazetteIt was out of necessity that Clementina Rind became Virginia’s first woman newspaper publisher. After the death of her husband, William, in 1773, she had to keep his printing office going to support herself and her children.

Though little is known of Clementina’s early life, she and her husband arrived in Williamsburg from Maryland in late 1765 or early 1766 on the invitation of influential Virginians, including Thomas Jefferson, to start a newspaper to compete with the already established Virginia Gazette.

Obit Aug 26 1773

William’s Obituary, Virginia Gazette (Rind), August 26, 1773

The first issue of Rind’s Virginia Gazette was published May 16, 1766 with the motto, “Open to ALL PARTIES, but Influenced by NONE.”  For seven years Rind built a successful newspaper and printing business in Williamsburg, also winning the appointment of public printer to the colony. But in 1773, in the midst of his success, William died from what was described as a “tedious and painful illness” at age 39.

“As Clementina traversed the liminal space that Saturday morning after the funeral,” explains biographer Martha J. King, “she was not simply retreating to a private domestic life but also entering a public arena as a printer’s widow. Home and work were integrally tied. With living quarters and printing office under the same roof, it is likely that Clementina and her older children had worked alongside William Rind (Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times, 75).”

Faced with the death of her husband and the reality of supporting her family without him—a daunting prospect, for sure—she seized the opportunity and used her skills to carry on as printer of the Virginia Gazette. She continued William’s endeavor without any suspension in publication and in the same issue of the Gazette which printed William’s obituary,  Clementina is named as its printer.

Clementina printer Aug 26 1773

Publisher’s block

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more dreadful than the most gruesome of tales: Newspaper Coverage of The East Orange Bathtub Mystery

Ocey Snead George Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

Photograph of Ocey Snead, taken December 21, 1907. From the Grantham Bain collection of glass negatives

In 1909, a mystery unfolded that was so shocking, it’s nearly too strange to believe today.

Shows like Dateline and Forensic Files continuously reveal the depths of human depravity and the bizarre story of Oceania (Ocey) Snead and the events leading up to her death could have easily found their way into an episode of true crime TV had the murder happened today. But Ocey Snead’s strange story happened long before television, at a time when murder mysteries were played out, in vivid detail, on the pages of newspapers.

To tell Ocey Snead’s story, we should start seven years before her death. . .

In 1902 Virginia Wardlaw arrived in Christiansburg, Virginia to run Montgomery Female College, a well-respected boarding school for young women and girls. Her aunt, Mrs. O. S. Pollock, had run the school for several years and asked Virginia, who had experience in teaching and academia, to take it over. The college offered students room and board and course study in English language, literature, ancient and modern history, natural science, mental and moral science, math, music and ancient and modern languages. “The remarkable purity and healthfulness of the atmosphere,” explained its 1880 catalog, “render the location peculiarly eligible for a seat of learning.”

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

Image from the 1880 catalog for the Montgomery Female Institute, from the Digital Collections of Duke University Libraries.

Virginia Wardlaw’s sister, Mary Snead, later joined her in Christiansburg to help run the school.  All went smoothly until a third sister, Caroline Martin, joined them, taking over the college’s administrative duties. Caroline acted erratically, suddenly changing the school’s curriculum, shifting students to different classes, padlocking doors for no reason and concocting a scheme to turn the institution into … read more »

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A Bicycle Search For You

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From the Times (Richmond, Va.), May 9, 1897.

As the UCI World Bike Championships unfold and professional road bikers from all over the map pedal by LVA down Richmond’s Broad Street, the Virginia Newspaper Project thought it a pertinent time to explore the search term “bicycle” in the Library’s free, online digital newspaper resource, Virginia Chronicle.

With nearly 500,000 newspaper pages, and more being added all the time, Virginia Chronicle is a fantastic tool for historical research. Among its features is an easy to use keyword search box, which we used for our “bicycle” search. “Cycling,” “wheeling” and “wheelmen” are a few alternate search terms for locating bike related articles.

While there is an advanced search feature on Virginia Chronicle, we did a simple search of the word “bicycle” which brought up an impressive 23,355 results. Each article in which bicycle was found is listed with title, date and page information. To the left of the results list, there is another column which breaks down search results by the different publications and decades in which our search term was found.

Interestingly, the first and only result for “bicycle” during the decade of 1860-1869 came from the Staunton Spectator of May 11, 1869. Bikes were novel at that time and the article, which claims that the “citizens of Staunton had their curiosity in reference to bicycles gratified,” is very brief.

First appearance Staunton Spectator 11 May 1869The search results get higher with each succeeding decade, with the highest result number, 11,615 to be exact, appearing during the decade of 1890 to 1899. This decade saw the rise of the “Safety” bicycle, a bike with front and back wheels of equal size and a chain drive that transferred power from the pedals to the real wheel, making riding easier and opening up the sport to men and … read more »

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Reading between the lines: the Comstock Act and ads for the treatment of “female complaints” from the Fairfax Herald.

By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Intern

If you read a newspaper from the late 19th century, you’re liable to be bombarded by various medical advertisements—treatments for catarrh, scrofula, and “watery-blood;” cure-alls like sarsaparilla and cod liver oil (described in an ad found in the Fairfax Herald as “palatable as milk”); and vegetable compounds that passionately avow efficacy in curing cancer.

Cancer

“Mason’s Vegetable Cancer Cure is the greatest triumph of the age.” From the Fairfax Herald.

Amongst these medical advertisements appear a multitude of supplements for treating “female complaints.” On first glance, these treatments appear to be simply another amusing example of 19th century medical quackery; however, these were not just any pills—these were abortifacients.

Abortion was a relatively common method of limiting family size in the 19th century, an era lacking in other forms of birth control; however, women did not truly consider themselves to be pregnant prior to the “quickening” of the fetus, the point in which she could feel the fetus move, usually around the fourth month of gestation. Abortifacients, therefore, were taken to relieve “obstructed menses.” Traditionally abortions were induced by ingesting home-remedies prepared with toxic herbs, such as pennyroyal, to induce miscarriage. By the mid-19th century abortifacients were widely available commercially, appearing frequently in newspaper advertisements which described the products in vague and euphemistic terms.

Despite the commonality of abortifacients in the 19th century, the emergence of anti-abortion campaigns in the mid-19th century ultimately led to the prohibition of abortion that lasted until the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Moreover, the Comstock Act of 1873 banned the circulation of abortifacients and information about them, including advertisements, as they were deemed “obscene.”

Despite the restrictions placed on abortifacients in the late 19th century, advertisements for them continued to … read more »

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Elizabeth Van Lew: Portrait of a Union Spy, From Print to Video

Liz Van Lew portraitIn recent years, Greg McQuade, morning anchor of WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has produced award winning news segments on local Richmond history. Some of the stories have focused on people who are now all but forgotten, but who were, during their lives, groundbreaking members of the community. John Mitchell, Jr., “fighting editor” of the Richmond Planet is a perfect example.

Often, McQuade uses historic newspapers to accompany his reports and the Newspaper Project is always happy to assist him when he visits the Library of Virginia. Recently, he highlighted another pivotal, and, sadly, largely forgotten figure of Richmond’s past, Elizabeth Van Lew

Van Lew, abolitionist and fierce opponent of succession, risked her life as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Surrounded by Confederate sympathizers, she lived in Richmond’s Church Hill district and carried out activities that would have been considered treasonous had they been discovered.  None of her neighbors, though, ever suspected her of any wrongdoing during the conflict.

Because of Van Lew’s daring and heroic deeds (which included helping prisoners escape Libby Prison), she was appointed Postmistress of Richmond by the US government after the war’s end. As her wartime activities came to light, she was maligned by many in the community as a traitor.

“The most hated woman in Virginia changed state’s course” tells the tale of a heroine who risked her life, her wealth and her social status to assist the cause of the Union. Historians elaborate on why she has been forgotten and if she will re-emerge with the recognition she is due for her role in shaping the course of the war.

To learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew, check out Elizabeth R. Varon’s comprehensive history, Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A read more »

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