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Sophie G. Meredith was a lifelong advocate for equal suffrage and women's rights and in 1909 was a founder of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and in 1915 founded the Virginia chapter of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, which was headquartered at her home at 204 E. Grace Street (no longer standing).

  • Photograph of Sophie Meredith courtesy of Library of Congress.
  • The Library of Virginia honored Sophie G. Meredith as one of its Virginia Women in History in 2020.
  • The Virginia Women in History Digital Trail is made possible by the Library of Virginia and American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619–2019.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Sophie Gooding Rose Meredith (December 12, 1851–August 27, 1928) was educated in the Quaker values of racial and gender equality and peace. She married a lawyer from Richmond and settled there. As her children grew up she began advocating improvements to the city's public schools and joined the Richmond Education Association.

In 1909 Meredith was one of about twenty socially prominent women who founded the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. Believing that in a democracy "all the people, not one-half the people, may make the laws that we must all live under," she argued that women could help elect legislators to pass laws that would make the world a better place. Meredith served as one of the league's vice presidents until 1915, when she organized the Virginia branch of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (later the National Woman's Party), which had been established to advocate a woman suffrage amendment to the United States Constitution. After Virginia's General Assembly had defeated proposals to amend the state constitution three times, Meredith believed that a federal amendment would be the quickest way to achieve voting rights for women.

Despite being in her sixties, Meredith joined the National Woman's Party pickets at the White House, who stood with banners criticizing the president for not supporting woman suffrage, and was arrested in 1918 for demonstrating at Lafayette Park. After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920, Meredith continued to chair the Virginia branch of the National Woman's Party and advocated an equal rights amendment until her death.

Reprinted with permission of the Library of Virginia.

Sophie Meredith Sides Cowan, "Sophie Gooding Rose Meredith (1851–1928)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2019.

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Library of Congress