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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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- More Than an Entry in a Register: Local Government Convict Registers

Virginia Penitentiary, ca. 1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

For access purposes, archivists sort local government records held by the Library of Virginia into twenty-three categories, as well as numerous sub-categories encompassing the alphabet from A to W. Due to its size and scope, the court records category is further divided into seven series—chancery, clerk’s records, court finance, criminal, judgments, jury records, and personal documentation. There are also various court-related dockets, memoranda, and petitions, which do not fit into any particular series. The criminal records series contains a wealth of information for both the historian and the genealogist.

The convict registers found in local government records at the Library shed light on a once taboo avenue of research, factoring into the recent debate over felon disenfranchisement and the restoration of voting rights. The Library houses seventeen local government criminal registers—either in their original form at the main building or State Records Center (sample finding aid) or on microfilm in the reading room and via inter library loan. An additional ten registers are preserved only on security microfilm at the State Records Center and presently are not available to the public.

The title of one such register from the City of Alexandria clearly spells out their purpose as “a descriptive list of persons convicted of felony, or other infamous offences in the Corporation Court of Alexandria, Virginia since November 2nd, 1870.” … read more »

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