Author: Jennifer Davis McDaid

a historical archivist at the Norfolk Southern Corporation

Thompson, Ida Mae (1866–1947)

Ida Mae Thompson was an important figure n Virginia’s woman suffrage movement, not for her political work but for her recordkeeping. First s a member of the Equal Suffrage League, the organization that led the effort to win women the ight to vote, and then as a member of the League of Women Voters, Thompson collected and preserved the movement’s history.


Woman Suffrage in Virginia

The woman suffrage movement, which sought voting rights for women, began in Virginia as early as 1870. In 1909, its most vocal supporters organized around the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, which joined with national groups in an effort to change state and local laws and pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was passed in Congress in 1919 and ratified by the states a year later. Virginia, however, delayed its ratification until 1952. By then, women had been voting and, slowly, winning elected office in the state for more than 30 years.


Rye Cove Cyclone

The Rye Cove Cyclone is the deadliest tornado in Virginia history. Part of an unusual outbreak of tornadoes across the eastern United States on May 2, 1929, it hit the Rye Cove School in the Appalachian highlands of Scott County in the southwestern part of the state, killing twelve students and one teacher and injuring fifty-four. Tornadoes also hit two school houses in Bath County later that day, but both schools had already dismissed students for the day. Scott County native A. P. Carter, of the singing group the Carter Family, volunteered to help in the wake of the tragedy, and the group recorded “The Cyclone of Rye Cove” later that year. The school’s 1929–1930 term was canceled, and a memorial school dedicated in 1930.


Robinson, Morgan Poitiaux (1876–1943)

Morgan Poitiaux Robinson, Virginia’s first state archivist, worked to make the state’s records more accessible and to ensure that local records were stored in fireproof buildings. The son of John Enders Robinson and Virginia Morgan, he was born in Richmond on February 11, 1876. After receiving his early education in the city at Mrs. Camm’s School for Boys and McGuire’s University School, he entered the University of Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a law degree.


Henderson, Helen Timmons (1877–1925)

Helen Timmons Henderson, from the town of Council in Buchanan County, served in the Virginia House of Delegates (1924–1925), one of the first two women elected to that body (the other was Norfolk‘s Sarah Lee Fain). She died before having the opportunity to run for a second term.


Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (1909–1920)

The Equal Suffrage League of Virginia was an organization of white women dedicated to securing for women the right to vote. Aligned with the national woman suffrage movement, the league worked for more than ten years lobbying the public and the General Assembly alike, until its efforts paid off when three-fourths of the United States state legislatures ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. The league failed, however, to persuade the Virginia General Assembly, which did not vote to ratify until 1952.


Cooperative Education Association

The Cooperative Education Association was organized in 1904 to advocate for public education reform in Virginia. The group was part of the larger, national Progressive movement, which generally pushed for workers’ rights, women’s rights, and more efficient government. The cooperative saw itself representing all citizens of Virginia, “whether living in the city or the country, whether white or black,” and was an outgrowth of the Richmond Education Association, founded in 1900 by Lila Meade Valentine and dedicated to education reform. The idea behind the cooperative was to extend the group’s successes in Richmond to the rest of the state.


Clark, Adèle (1882–1983)

Adèle Clark was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, the chair of the Virginia League of Women Voters (1921–1925, 1929–1944), the social director of women at the College of William and Mary (1926), a New Deal–era field worker, and an accomplished artist and arts advocate. A native of Alabama, Clark attended schools in Richmond and later studied art in New York. She taught art in Richmond and established a training studio, while also working as a political activist. In 1909, she helped to found the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and when women won the right to vote in 1920, she worked to educate women voters and to influence Congress and the General Assembly on issues of special interest to women. During the Great Depression, she served as the state director of the Federal Art Project (1936–1942). In her later years, Clark spoke for the desegregation of public schools and against the poll tax. She opposed the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1973. Clark died in Richmond in 1983.


Adams, Pauline (1874–1957)

Pauline Adams was an Irish-born suffrage activist who took an extraordinarily active role in her community for a woman at that time. Born in 1874, Adams arrived in the United States during the 1890s. She married a physician in 1898 and they soon settled in Norfolk. There, she served as president of the Norfolk League, a National American Woman Suffrage Association affiliate. Her militant approach to securing suffrage alienated many other women in the area. Although she supported the United States’ entry into World War I (1914–1917) and sold War Bonds, she was arrested and jailed at the Occoquan Workhouse after waving suffrage banners in front of President Woodrow Wilson during a selective service parade. After the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Adams became a lawyer and remained active in politics. She died in 1957.

Sponsors  |  View all