ENTRY

Valentine, Lila Meade (1865–1921)

SUMMARY

Lila Meade Valentine was a suffragist, education reformer, and public-health advocate. During her abbreviated life, she played a vital role in creating and running organizations that improved the health-care and public school systems of her native city of Richmond. Valentine also became an ardent supporter of woman suffrage early in the 1900s, cofounding the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and serving as an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. A talented organizer and an eloquent speaker, Valentine led efforts on behalf of suffrage that came to fruition in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.

Early Years

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.

School Interior

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.

While working in Virginia schools, Valentine frequently saw children suffering from treatable illnesses, and she soon became interested in health-care reform. In 1902, she helped found the Instructive Visiting Nurse Association of Richmond (IVNA), and became the organization’s president in 1904. The association targeted lower-income residents of Richmond, seeking to ensure that they had access to basic health-care services. Under Valentine’s leadership, the IVNA led an initiative to help combat the then-common disease of tuberculosis. This initiative subsequently became a model for health-care reformers throughout Virginia.

Woman Suffrage

Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Memorabilia

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.

Woman Suffrage Lectures

Valentine initially believed that woman suffrage might be won state by state, with legislatures passing their own suffrage amendments. She toured Virginia in 1912 and 1913, giving more than a hundred speeches to government officials and state organizations. Valentine proved to be so effective a speaker that she was subsequently called on to address crowds in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia on behalf of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Still, a suffrage amendment failed in Virginia in 1916, leading Valentine to fix her sights on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Equal Suffrage League, meanwhile, had joined forces with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and over the years it continued to grow. In 1914, it reported 45 local chapters. By 1916, there were 115, including 23 organized in that year alone.

Antisuffrage Viewpoints

  • Making the Polls Attractive to the Anti-Suffragists
    Making the Polls Attractive to the Anti-Suffragists

    New York : Published by Puck Publishing Corporation, 295-309 Lafayette Street, 1915 February 20.

    Illustration shows society women playing cards and dancing rather than voting; only one woman has taken time away from socializing to cast a ballot into a ballot box brought to her card table; an unmarked ballot rests on a cushion next to a woman in the foreground.

    Illus. in: Puck, v. 77, no. 1981 (1915 February 20), p. 16.

    http://suffrageandthemedia.org/source/puck-magazine-suffrage-issue/

  • National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage
    National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

    A group of unidentified men look at materials posted in the window of the headquarters of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, an organization founded by women in 1911. A Virginia chapter of the association was established in Richmond the following year.

  • I Did Not Raise My Girl to Be a Voter
    "I Did Not Raise My Girl to Be a Voter"

    An illustration published in the October 9, 1915, edition of Puck magazine depicts a "political boss" conducting a chorus with an antisuffragist woman at its center. Behind her and joining her in song with their "vociferous" voices are men who oppose women acquiring the vote, as they fear the social reforms that might result. The men's unsavory occupations are noted: a "procurer," a "dive-keeper," a "child labor employer," a "grafter," a "cadet" (an archaic slang term referring to a man who puts young women into brothels), and a "sweat-shop owner." Puck, a humor magazine based in New York City, supported suffrage for women and commissioned a series of illustrations that poked fun at the antisuffragist point of view.

  • An Anti-Suffrage Viewpoint
    An Anti-Suffrage Viewpoint

    This satirical drawing published in the January 23, 1915, edition of the humor magazine Puck pokes fun at the double standard of some who oppose woman suffrage. The illustration depicts a New Year's Eve party at a nightclub, during which a tuxedoed man accompanied by a woman unexpectedly spies his wife across the room. "I'll bet she's looking for me!", he tells his "fair companion," who replies, "Oh, dear! Why can't some people understand that woman's place is in the home?"

    Citation: Puck, AP101 .P7. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

  • His Daughter!
    His Daughter!

    An illustration published in the February 12, 1915, edition of Puck magazine depicts the horrified expression of a father, who opposes women securing the vote, as he watches his suffragist daughter addressing a crowd. The subtitle of the drawing reads, "And he thought she was 'just a little girl.'" Puck, a humor magazine based in New York City, supported suffrage for women and commissioned a series of illustrations that poked fun at the antisuffragist point of view. 

    Citation: Puck, AP101 .P7. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

  • Anti-Suffrage Arguments
    Anti-Suffrage Arguments

    This broadside produced by the Virginia Association Opposed to Woman's Suffrage warns that if women are permitted to vote it will lead to socialism, which, the organization believes, is opposed to Christian religion, marriage, family, and private property. The document asserts that "danger lies ahead," and the way to stop it is as follows:

    If you hold your marriage, your family life, your home, your religion, as sacred, dear and inviolate, to be preserved for yourself, and for your children, for all time, then work with all your might against Socialism's vanguard—Woman's Suffrage. 
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.

MAP
TIMELINE
February 4, 1865
Lila Meade Valentine is born in Richmond.
1900
Lila Meade Valentine, appalled by the inequities of Virginia's education system, which make it difficult for poor, African American, and female children to receive high quality instruction, forms the Richmond Education Association along with several other activists, including Mary-Cooke Branch Munford.
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, Lila Meade Valentine, and Sophie Gooding Rose Meredith, 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.
June 10, 1919
Benjamin Batchelder Valentine, Lila Meade Valentine's husband, dies.
July 14, 1921
Lila Meade Valentine dies.
1936
The same 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.
FURTHER READING
  • Graham, Sara Hunter. “Woman Suffrage in Virginia: The Equal Suffrage League and Pressure-Group Politics, 1909–1920.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 101 (April 1993): 227–250.
  • Green, Elna. Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. New York: J. J. Little and Ives Company, 1922.
  • Tarter, Brent, Marianne E. Julienne, and Barbara C. Batson. The Campaign for Woman Suffrage in Virginia. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2020.
  • Taylor, Lloyd C. “Lila Meade Valentine: The FFV as Reformer,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 70 (October 1962): 471–487.
  • Wheeler, Majorie Spruill. New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Kent, Holly. Valentine, Lila Meade (1865–1921). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/valentine-lila-meade-1865-1921.
MLA Citation:
Kent, Holly. "Valentine, Lila Meade (1865–1921)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 22 Oct. 2021
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