Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Mrs. Virginia W. Mason, 1854-1936
By Carson Sand, undergraduate, University of California, Berkeley
Virginia Wilson Mason was a suffragist from Tacoma, Washington. She was born January 28, 1854 and died on January 1, 1936. She married John Mason, who was a Civil War veteran and a manager in the Northern Pacific Railway. They were fairly wealthy, and built a large house in Tacoma. Virginia designed much of the house, specifically planning large, grand rooms for meetings with other suffragists. It cost about $12,000 to build, back in the early 1900's. The Mason's estate would later be known as a "center of the suffragist movement."
Virginia Mason moved to Tacoma in 1888, but her suffragist work really began in 1910 when she was elected vice president and later president of the Woman's Equal Suffrage Association. She played a large role in leading the national movement for the women's right to vote. From 1905 when her home was constructed until 1910, when women won voting rights, her home was used for meetings with suffragists from western states to spread awareness on voting rights.
Her work in women's voting rights also spread to other areas of just general rights for women. Her estate was a very popular meeting place for this. In the book "Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe," Mason's house is mentioned as the meeting place for DeVoe, a good friend of Virginia, and other suffragists nominated as delegates from western states. On January 14, 1910, they met and created the NCWV (National Council of Women Voters).. They drafted a constitution with three main goals: first, to encourage other states to move forward with voting rights; next, to improve conditions not only for woman, but for men and children at home; finally, to help women gain equality socially, politically, and economically. Following the suffrage movement, Virginia led a strong effort to advance women's rights. Her home was a center for suffrage meetings for years after.
Last year, the Mason family estate was sold and lots of research came up about it. Her house is an iconic part of suffrage history. Pictures of her house show large, elegant seating and the outside structure of a "Stick style home." These features and the Mason's family wealth created an elegant and dignified center for women's rights movements. This is important because these high class women were respected greatly and empowered themselves and because of this were able to get things rolling. Along with her suffrage work, Virginia Mason was known as a powerful women who "states her mind," and it runs in her family today. Following her suffragist work, she was also a founder of Franke Toby Jones retirement home. Because of her work in the early 1900's, she helped lead women to a victory in the right to vote. Her initiative to have meetings in her home and using it as a base for women to expand their ideas made her an important suffragist who inspired many women to fight for rights.
Apress. "Tacoma's 111-year-old Mason House, Where Suffragists Gathered, Is for Sale." News Talk KIT. March 21, 2016. Accessed April 20, 2017. http://newstalkkit.com/tacomas-111-year-old-mason-house-where-suffragists-gathered-is-for-sale/.
Sailorcsailor@thenewstribune.com, Craig. "A Tacoma home with stories to tell." The News Tribune | TheNewsTribune.com. Accessed April 20, 2017. http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article67088782.html.
Sailorcsailor@thenewstribune.com, Craig. "Tacoma suffragist Virginia Mason honored with tombstone." The News Tribune | TheNewsTribune.com. Accessed April 20, 2017. http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article76329617.html.
Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer M. Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith Devoe. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2015. p. 137
Hilton, /. Elaine. "Posts from January 2015 on Living in Tacoma." Living in Tacoma. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://livingintacoma.org/2015/01/.
"North Slope Historic District Home," accessed at https://livingintacoma.org/2015/01/.