Author: Fannie Berry

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“Interview of Mrs. Fannie Berry” (February 26, 1937)

Fannie Berry, a woman who was born into slavery, tells an interviewer from the Virginia Writers Project about her life on February 26, 1937. Some of her major memories include the rebellions of Nat Turner and John Brown, the Civil War, and life with her enslaver Mrs. Sarah Ann. The editors of Weevils in the Wheat noted that Berry was “a prolific tale teller,” and that in the source material used for compiling the collection there were sometimes discrepancies between two different versions of a similar anecdote attributed to Berry. The editors of Weevils in the Wheat inserted comments in this transcription. Their bracketed comments have been included below. This interview, along with other Virginia Writers Project interviews, offer a composite portrait of interviewees’ self-styled personal stories. Interviewers’ interests, lived experiences, and editing choices, as well as their social relations and expectations shaped their relationship and conversation with the interviewees. Although the interviews aren’t unmediated autobiographies, they are no less authentic and are just as fruitful a source for reconstructing historical experience.

 

ENTRY

Bodeker, Anna Whitehead (1826–1904)

Anna Whitehead Bodeker was a woman suffrage activist who worked to build an intellectual culture of gender equality in Richmond through her writing and sponsorship of public talks by suffragist speakers. Her interest in suffrage was sparked by the activities of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). In 1870, Bodeker hosted some NWSA activists at her Richmond home. With their encouragement, she and several other Richmond women established the Virginia State Woman Suffrage Association, with Bodeker as president. On November 7, 1871, Bodeker, at the urging of the National Woman Suffrage Educational Committee, on which she served, attempted to cast her ballot in the local election, citing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. The election judges refused to accept her vote. In 1872, her petition for legislation granting women the right to vote was presented to the General Assembly, referred to the Committee for Courts of Justice, and ignored. At around this same time, her interest in spiritualism—and her forceful public expression of her beliefs—increased dramatically. Her activism ceased by 1874, when she was released from a yearlong forced confinement in the Western Lunatic Asylum in Staunton. Bodeker died in 1904.

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