A trip through time

VCU commemorates the Centennial Anniversary of the founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia with a March and Building Dedication

(From left) Antonia FD Vassar, assistant director of development, VCU Libraries; Virginia Cowles, president, League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area; Kimberly Separ, director of development and community relations, VCU Libraries; Janet Hutchinson, chair, Department of Women’s Studies; Lynn C. Johnston, former president, League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area; and Lois Badey, director of development, College of Humanities and Sciences
(From left) Antonia FD Vassar, assistant director of development, VCU Libraries; Virginia Cowles, president, League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area; Kimberly Separ, director of development and community relations, VCU Libraries; Janet Hutchinson, chair, Department of Women’s Studies; Lynn C. Johnston, former president, League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area; and Lois Badey, director of development, College of Humanities and Sciences

The lunchtime crowd along the 900 block of West Franklin Street on Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus couldn’t help but stop and take notice of a boisterous group of marchers.

Led by accordion players and drummers, the group waved American flags, carried signs and called for women to be given the right to vote. Some wore early 20th century costumes.

The march was part of a weeklong effort to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, which took place Nov. 20, 1909, at Anne Clay Crenshaw’s house, 919 W. Franklin St.

The centennial celebration of the founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia included a march along West Franklin Street. Photos by Mike Porter, VCU Communications and Public Relations.
The centennial celebration of the founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia included a march along West Franklin Street. Photos by Mike Porter, VCU Communications and Public Relations.
Some participants wore costumes from the early 20th century.  Others wore sashes or carried American flags or signs.
Some participants wore costumes from the early 20th century. Others wore sashes or carried American flags or signs.
The group stopped at 919 W. Franklin St., where the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia was founded on Nov. 20, 1909. The house belonged to Anne Clay Crenshaw and was purchased by Richmond Professional Institute, now VCU, in the 1960s.
The group stopped at 919 W. Franklin St., where the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia was founded on Nov. 20, 1909. The house belonged to Anne Clay Crenshaw and was purchased by Richmond Professional Institute, now VCU, in the 1960s.
Crenshaw’s granddaughters, Sally Clay Witt (left) and Anne Warfield Crenshaw Truesdale, pulled away a cover, revealing the building’s renaming as Crenshaw House.
Crenshaw’s granddaughters, Sally Clay Witt (left) and Anne Warfield Crenshaw Truesdale, pulled away a cover, revealing the building’s renaming as Crenshaw House.

When the marchers reached 919 W. Franklin St., they stopped to sing a suffrage song, listened to an equal rights speech by women’s studies major Melissa Shorey and participated in a program to rename the building.

“Today, thanks to Anne Crenshaw and her many co-suffragists in the ESL, women enjoy a much more empowered role – albeit, a sometimes complex and demanding one – here in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the nation,” said Monica Rao, VCU international alumni relations liaison and spouse of VCU’s president.

The Crenshaw family lived in the house for nearly 40 years. The Richmond Professional Institute, now VCU, purchased the house in the 1960s. The building had been called Younger House. The VCU Center for Public Policy is located there.

Some of the descendants of Anne Clay Crenshaw and Sophie Gooding Meredith, another founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, participated in the celebration. Crenshaw’s granddaughters, Sally Clay Witt and Anne Warfield Crenshaw Truesdale, pulled away a cover over a sign revealing the building’s new name as Crenshaw House.

“Getting to celebrate the Equal Suffrage League’s anniversary with Anne Crenshaw’s two granddaughters is such a thrill,” said VCU Rector Panny Rhodes. “Having them here puts a wonderful human face on a movement that involved so many women across all walks of life, who were uncompromising in their pursuits and in their integrity.”

The week’s activities were sponsored by the College of Humanities and Sciences, the VCU Libraries and the Virginia League of Women Voters.

“The founding of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia took place on what is now the VCU campus and the 100th anniversary is the right time to reflect on what happened here,” said Kimberly Separ, director of development, VCU Libraries. “This chronicles Richmond’s history and VCU’s connection to that history.”

Learn more about the founding of the Equal Suffrage League in the Special Collections and Archives section, located in the fourth floor of the James Branch Cabell Library, 901 Park Ave., or by visiting http://www.library.vcu.edu/jbc/speccoll/exhibit/crenshaw.html.