Women’s Suffrage in Accomack County

After just over 100 years of women’s suffrage, Heritage Center staff shared a rare item in our archival collections to highlight this milestone on social media. Facebook provides a great platform to tell brief stories that entertain and inform, and let the public know of the valuable holdings in our archives. The story and photo below were posted on election day.

 In September 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment earlier in the year, a notice was placed in the Peninsula Enterprise newspaper that any woman who so desired – and who could pay the $1.50 poll tax – could register to vote. In Mappsville Precinct of Accomack County, six women answered the call. Mrs. Minnie Gillespie was the postmaster at Mappsville and the only woman with a profession other than “housewife” or “housekeeper” listed in the register. Lottie J. Savage was born in New York of English parents. Given that background it is perhaps not surprising that the mother of five would appear in the register. Just a few houses away from Lottie lived Roxie Bloxom, wife of Brantley and first cousin to Minnie Gillespie. Elizabeth P. Bloxom also lived in town, as the wife of John M. Bloxom who owned a store there for many years. Miss Rosalie J. Barnes never married and likely lived in the house left to her by her father John P. Barnes who had just passed away two years earlier. Emma E. Taylor, 30 years old, was not yet a mother. Her husband Virgil was a farmer. She also lived just outside of town on the Seaside Road, and judging by their proximity on the 1920 U.S. Census, may have been close neighbors. In that election, Accomack County went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket of Cox/ Roosevelt with 2,026 votes. Harding/Coolidge got just 409. But even Eugene Debs earned 1 vote. In the 1920 U. S. Census, 18,479 people over the age of 21 resided in Accomack County. All of them, according to the Constitution, able to cast a ballot in that election. But only 13% of them had their votes counted that year. In Mappsville Precinct, at least 6 of them were women.

This register contains information that could prove useful not only for a variety of research topics, but could help to establish a picture of the past for genealogy and family history. The Heritage Center staff continue to work towards making sources like this accessible to the public. For more information on Virginia women in the 1920 election:

https:// uncommonwealth.virginiamemory.com/blog/2020/11/02/a-day-of-triumph-and-dignityvirginia-women-vote-in-1920/

Information obtained from: “List of White Voters, Registered at Mappsville Precinct in Metompkin Magisterial District, Accomac County Virginia.” Original held at Eastern Shore Public Library.