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- “Unwarranted, Unnecessary, Undemocratic:” The Virginia General Assembly Responds to the Proposed Nineteenth Amendment in 1919


Pickets at the White House, 1917. Harris & Ewing, photographer. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In June 1919 Congress proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing women’s right to vote (with only one vote in favor from Virginia’s congressional delegation, Republican C. Bascom Slemp). Virginia suffrage advocates expressed their hopes that ratification would happen quickly. Equal Suffrage League of Virginia president Lila Meade Valentine rejoiced that Congress had at last taken action to “enable this nation to stand before the democracies of the world unashamed,” although she regretted that Virginia “did not long ago take the initiative” by passing an amendment to the state constitution. “I trust,” she concluded, that the General Assembly “may atone for the past neglect by being among the first to ratify the national amendment.”

Nine states ratified the amendment (often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) before the end of June. Although the General Assembly of Virginia was not scheduled to hold its regular session until January 1920, the governor called a special session for August 1919 to prepare a plan to take advantage of a federal grant for road construction. Suffragists in Virginia disagreed about whether to push the issue of ratification during the special session or to wait until the regular session five months later. Equal Suffrage League officers favored laying the groundwork for ratification in the regular session, but members of the Virginia branch of the … read more »

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- Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Records are coming to Making History: Transcribe


Undated photograph of Equal Suffrage League members, Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia is excited to make the records of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia available in Making History: Transcribe. As part of our 2020 commemoration of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote, the Library is asking volunteers to help transcribe these records that document women’s campaign for the vote in Virginia.

In the autumn of 1936, Ida Mae Thompson sent out a plea to former members of the Equal Suffrage League: “We have the opportunity through the Historical Records Survey, a WPA project, of collecting and classifying for permanent preservation all available materials on woman suffrage in our State.” Thompson specifically asked for “minutes, samples of pamphlets or fliers or other printed matter including newspaper clippings, or information that workers may remember, etc.” She stressed that “ANY data” documenting the woman suffrage movement in Virginia was desirable so that its history could eventually be written.

Almost thirty years earlier, in November 1909, a small group of prominent Richmond women had founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. They spent the next decade advocating first for an amendment to the state constitution and later for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee women’s right to vote. The league’s members were all white women (and some men) and they did not advocate for African American … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part II

This is the second of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade.


Liberty Day opening U.S. Gov't Bag Loading Plant : Seven Pines, October 12, 1918 / Frederic H. Spigel.

While nurses and female yeomen filled military roles, civilian women’s organizations of all kinds worked on the home front. In fact, such groups composed three-fourths of the wartime organizations in Virginia. The state Equal Suffrage League temporarily suspended agitation for women’s voting rights and joined with dozens of other organizations, including the Virginia Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, to support the war effort. For instance, both groups supported the Khaki and Blue Kitchen, at 210 East Grace Street in Richmond, which provided meals for servicemen visiting the city. Richmond’s suffragists (including Adele Clark, Nora Houston, and Eudora Ramsay Richardson) transformed the Equal Suffrage League headquarters and worked tirelessly for the suffrage auxiliary of the Red Cross. “We have a sewing machine,” one member reported, “and [a] pleasant work-room.” The auxiliary also purchased a knitting machine and pledged to provide mittens for the hundred nurses assigned to U.S. Base Hospital No. 45. By November 1917, the women already had produced 1,244 garments, including bedshirts, bathrobes, pajamas, pillowcases, sheets, and towels, and had knitted sweaters, mufflers, mittens, and socks. In Roanoke, the Equal Suffrage League joined with twenty local women’s groups to encourage the cultivation of home gardens. As a result, agricultural production … read more »

- Remaking Virginia: “To Secure Justice for Ourselves”




With the Civil War ended and slavery abolished, many African Americans believed that freedom should be much more than an absence of slavery. They believed it should include full rights and responsibilities of citizenship, including rights to personal liberty, property ownership, and participation in public life by voting and holding office. In the spring of 1865, African American men in Norfolk organized the Colored Monitor Union Club to demand full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. “Give us the suffrage,” they asserted in an address published as Equal Suffrage: An Appeal from the Colored Citizens of Norfolk, Va., to the People of the United States (1865), “and you may rely upon us to secure justice for ourselves.” In Hampton, Richmond, and other communities, African American men organized political clubs for the same purpose. Most white Virginians opposed granting freedmen the right to vote.

By the end of 1865, Radical Republicans in Congress had become frustrated with the opposition of many white southerners to extending full rights of citizenship to African Americans. During the next three years Congress adopted a series of Reconstruction and civil rights laws imposing reforms on the Southern states. Early in 1867 Congress passed an act placing the Southern states under military rule and requiring them to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and to write new constitutions before they could be … read more »

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