Stewart Bell Jr. Archives
Monday - Thursday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
In August, we remember the Suffragette movement. Our display this month shows elements of the local fight for women’s right to vote. In particular, the display highlights Fannie Baker Dunlap, who registered for the vote on October 2, 1920 at 56 years of age, and Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, a member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.
It is just one hundred years since Virginia women won the fight for the right to vote. In fact, Winchester’s first two women, Isabel E. Baker and Frances W. Beverly, registered to vote on August 27, 1920 – exactly 100 years ago this month. Though it was legal, many registrars did their best to make registration difficult for women. Because Virginia required that voters give correct answers to all questions that a registrar asks, some registrars stretched this law, asking questions that seem better suited to a history class—“What state passed the Port bill and when?” Nevertheless, women came out in droves to vote. Winchester election officers struggled to manage the long lines of women eager to vote.
The journey toward women’s suffrage was not an easy one. Women began attempting to vote at least as early as the 1870s, fifty years before their right was legally recognized. In 1909, Virginia women organized the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. This is the organization to which Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, a Clarke County resident and a Quaker, belonged. Pidgeon traveled to New York and South Dakota speaking, lobbying, and organizing events in 1917 and 1918, eventually returning to Virginia where she succeeded in enrolling over one thousand supporters.
Come to the archives to see our display to the right of the archives entrance, learn more about how women’s suffrage played out in the local area, and even tell us what you know! We look forward to your visit.
Tarter, Brent, Marianne E. Julienne, & Barbara C. Batson. The Campaign for Woman Suffrage in Virginia. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2020.