Lila Meade was born in Richmond on February 4, 1865, the daughter of Richard Hardaway Meade and Kate Fontaine Meade. At the age of twenty-one, she married Benjamin Batchelder Valentine, a prosperous businessman. The couple's marriage was a happy one, with Benjamin Valentine actively supporting his wife's work on behalf of education and health-care reform, and woman suffrage. The couple had no children, and Benjamin Valentine died in 1919.
Valentine's career as a reformer began in 1900. Appalled by the inequities of Virginia's education system, which made it difficult for poor, African American, and female children to receive high quality instruction, Valentine, along with several other activists, formed the Richmond Education Association (REA). The association was remarkably dynamic and productive, and during Valentine's tenure as president (1900–1904), the REA raised funds for a new high school, founded programs designed to help train kindergarten teachers, called for better training and higher wages for all teachers, and created initiatives designed to help poor white and African American students receive excellent educations.
Plagued by ill health and exhausted by a demanding schedule of speeches and meetings, Valentine reluctantly stepped down from her various leadership roles in 1904. On a trip to England, she observed the work of radical suffragists and returned to the United States eager to become involved in the American woman suffrage movement. In 1909, Valentine cofounded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, one of the most influential southern suffrage organizations. She supposed that an electorate that included women would be more likely to support education and health-care reform.
Although by no means as controversial as when first proposed by reformers during the nineteenth century, woman suffrage remained a divisive issue across gender as well as racial lines. This was particularly true in the socially conservative South, where ideals of southern womanhood still dictated that white women focus on the home and family, and avoid the "male" realm of politics and government. Valentine and her fellow suffragists defied such expectations, asserting their right not only to speak about political subjects but also to vote in political contests.
The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote became law in 1920. In part, however, because of groups like the Virginia Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, the General Assembly withheld its ratification until 1952. Valentine registered to vote for the first time from her sick bed but was too ill to go to the polls to vote. She died on July 14, 1921. Ironically, in 1936, the same General Assembly that had refused to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment nonetheless placed a memorial plaque in the State Capitol to honor Valentine.
February 4, 1865 - Lila Meade Valentine is born in Richmond.
1900–1904 - Lila Meade Valentine serves as president of the Richmond Education Association (REA).
1902 - Lila Meade Valentine helps found the Instructive Visiting Nurse Association of Richmond (IVNA), and she becomes the organization's president in 1904. The association targets lower-income residents of Richmond, seeking to ensure that they have access to basic health-care services.
November 27, 1909 - A group of women, including Kate Waller Barrett, Kate Langley Bosher, Adèle Clark, Ellen Glasgow, Nora Houston, Mary Johnston, and Lila Meade Valentine, found the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.
1912 - Lila Meade Valentine persuades a group of Richmond businessmen to form the Men's Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.
1913 - In a letter to Lila Meade Valentine, Mary Johnston defends black women and encourages their inclusion in the suffrage movement.
July 14, 1921 - Lila Meade Valentine dies.
1936 - The same Virginia General Assembly that had refused to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919 nonetheless places a memorial plaque in the State Capitol to honor Lila Meade Valentine.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Kent, H. Lila Meade Valentine (1865–1921). (2011, April 7). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Valentine_Lila_Meade_1865-1921.
- MLA Citation:
Kent, Holly. "Lila Meade Valentine (1865–1921)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 7 Apr. 2011. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: November 6, 2008 | Last modified: April 7, 2011