The Hall of Fame of Delaware Women was established in 1981 by the Delaware Commission for Women with the purpose of recognize the lasting contributions and achievements of Delaware women in a variety of fields.
Delaware Public Media is highlighting the below women for their contribution to the women’s suffrage movement. Credits to the Delaware Commission for Women for photos and information for descriptions.
Mary Ann Sorden Stuart
Stuart was the local vice president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. She helped link Delaware to the national women’s movement and worked at the state and national level for equal representation for women. She was joined by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in her efforts to lobby legislators about the unfair practice of taxation without representation, as women at the time could not vote.
Annie Jump Cannon
Cannon is one of America’s first female astronomers and is known internationally for her system of classifying stellar spectra. Despite her father’s fears that she might set the house on fire, she studied the constellations in her attic observatory by candlelight. As a member of the National Women’s Party for women’s suffrage, she donated most of her prize money to universities for scholarships for young women studying astronomy.
Vera Gilbride Davis
Davis was heavily involved in Delaware’s suffrage movement. She became the first female bill clerk of the House of Representatives (1927); the first female secretary of the Senate (1941); the first woman elected to the State Senate (1946); and the first woman elected president pro tem of the Senate (1949). In 1956, she became the first woman elected to a statewide office, that of State Treasurer of Delaware.
Mabel Lloyd Fisher Ridgely
Ridgely is credited with single-handedly saving the Old State House on the Green in Dover from neglect and mishandling. She was also president of the Delaware Equal Suffrage Association and the Suffrage Committee of Delaware, working tirelessly for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which passed in 1920, ensuring a woman’s right to vote. In 1921, the Delaware League of Women Voters formed from these two associations.
Emalea Pusey Warner
Warner was a dedicated advocate for education in Delaware. She was a key organizer of the Wilmington New Century Club, which became a charter member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She was elected first president of the Delaware State Federation in 1898 and helped ask the General Assembly for funds to provide higher education for women in Delaware. Later, she served on the building commission to erect the Women’s College at the University of Delaware.
Sallie Topkis Ginns
Ginns served as treasurer of the National Women’s Party for eight years and picketed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to help win women the right to vote. She is also considered by the Jewish Federation of Delaware to be one of the most important Jewish women in Delaware history – founding the Wilmington chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and leading the Council in its efforts to provide educational assistance and an Americanization program for immigrants.
Vernon was one of the nation’s leading suffragettes, taking the women’s rights cause to many states across the country. She quit her teaching job to join the American Women’s Suffrage Association and became one of the “Delaware 7,” a group of women who went to jail rather than pay fines for picketing the White House on behalf of women’s rights.
Florence Bayard Hilles
Hilles was a leader in Delaware’s struggle for women’s rights and was thought to be extreme. She spoke at rallies and led parades in Wilmington and Dover and served as president of the Delaware Branch of the National Women’s Party and was on the building committee for the Party’s National Headquarters.
Conner was a state senator from 1964-1972 and sponsored the Fair Housing Bill. She also introduced - and successfully worked for ratification of - the Equal Rights Amendment in Delaware. Additionally, she was the prime sponsor of the therapeutic abortion bill and a bill helping children with hearing disabilities learn better.
At the age of 17, Robinson began teaching grade school and later became an instructor at Vassar College. She was appointed Dean of the Women’s College at the University of Delaware in 1914. Outside of her role on the campus she helped establish home economics classes for farm women in different places throughout the state, and during her tenure worked closely with the public schools.