Virginians such as Maggie Walker, in addition to fighting for equal opportunities for African Americans, also organized for women’s rights. Women’s suffrage gained new momentum in Virginia in the early 1900s along with the national movement in response to successful activism in Progressive Era reform.

As in other southern states, Virginians did not mobilize for woman suffrage in significant numbers until the late 1800s, and did not mount a state-wide campaign until the 1910s. Nevertheless, Virginia suffragists worked tirelessly to organize for the right to vote. The Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, founded in 1909, joined national groups in the effort to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This postcard, designed by Adèle Clark, one of the leaders of the Equal Suffrage League, was part of the effort to educate Virginians and lobby for the right to vote.

In Virginia, as in other states, the issue of race complicated the debate over woman suffrage and divided the movement at times. African American Virginians were generally silent on the issue in public, but after ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, black Virginians such as Maggie Walker actively engaged in efforts to register African American women to vote.

In a symbolic move, Virginia did not ratify the 19th Amendment until February 21, 1952. In the intervening 32 years, however, women voted and gradually increased their presence in elected office.

Source: Adèle Clark, “‘Bread and Roses’ Postcard,” postcard, 1912, Encyclopedia Virginia, The Library of Virginia, accessed September 20, 2011.


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