Biographical Sketch of Almedia B. Gray

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Almedia B. Gray, 1833 - c.1910

By Ashley Hart, Undergraduate, San Jose State University

Marathon County Woman Suffrage Society, co-founder of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Wisconsin, Vice-President and Financial Secretary of the Los Angeles Woman Suffrage Association

Almedia B. Gray, formerly Almedia B. Harney, was born in January 1833 in Maine. In the 1850s, Almedia Harney married John Gray, a lumber manufacturer from New Brunswick, Canada. Together, they had five children, but only two lived to adulthood. The Grays resided in Marathon County, Wisconsin until Almedia relocated to Los Angeles with her daughter Mary in 1889. Her husband remained in Wisconsin with their daughter Jessie. John passed away some time before 1910.

Almedia B. Gray participated in many suffrage organizations at the county, state, and national level. Beginning in the 1880s, she served on committees in different suffrage societies in Wisconsin. She took on a leadership role with the Marathon County Woman Suffrage Society in 1882. With no official state suffrage organization, Gray worked alongside Dr. Laura Ross Walcott of Milwaukee to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Wisconsin by September of 1882. In 1883, she worked closely with Reverend Olivia Brown on the committee of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association. Brown and Gray also worked together in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union where they formed a close bond.

In 1886, Wisconsin granted women the right to vote in elections related to school matters. However, the question of whether women could vote in city or state elections remained unclear. In 1887 women went to the polls attempting to exercise their new limited right to vote, but election officials refused their ballots. In June 1887, Brown and Gray exchanged letters with Susan B. Anthony seeking advice on whether or not to sue election officials in Racine, Wisconsin after they had refused to allow women to vote in the municipal election. Although Anthony advised against it, Brown pursued her case, winning at the circuit court level but ultimately losing in the state supreme court. The Wisconsin legislature eventually, however, decided to create separate ballot boxes for women in order to allow them to vote separately on school matters.

When Gray relocated to Los Angeles in 1889, she served on the executive committee for the Los Angeles Woman Suffrage Association and eventually became the vice-president and financial secretary in 1896. In August 1902, Gray acted as a spokesperson for forty-five women who came to register to vote at Los Angeles City Hall where they were turned down by Deputy County Clerk Spencer. They demanded their right to vote as citizens, citing the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the California State Constitution. Gray was quoted as saying "Now, I know we are qualified voters. The law qualifies us, but the opinion of men does not."

In her later years, Gray remained active in the Badger's Club that supported organizations for young people and promoted philanthropy. Gray passed away sometime after 1910.

Sources:

1.)"A Plea for the Eleventh Amendment." Los Angeles Herald. October 31, 1896, 7

2.)Brown, Olympia. Acquaintances, Old and New, Among Reformers. Milwaukee: S. E. Tate, 1911

3.)Gordon, Ann D., editor. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Volume 5, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009

4.)National Woman Suffrage Association. "Report of the Sixteenth Annual Washington Convention, March 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1884. Rochester, NY: Charles Mann, 1884

5.)"The Suffrage Association." Los Angeles Herald. April 7, 1895

6.)U.S. Bureau of the Census. Tenth Census of the United States. 1880

7.)U. S. Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States. 1900

8.)U.S. Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States. 1910

9.)"Vigorous Women Insist on Voting." Los Angeles Times. August 23, 1902, 14

10.)"Women Seek Registration." Los Angeles Times. August 12, 1902, 13.

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