Biographical Sketch of Julia Harrison Norris

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Julia Harrison Norris, 1874-1964

By Jennifer Coggins, archivist
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Julia Harrison Norris was born August 12, 1874 in Tampa, Florida to Charles Harrison (1851-1920), a judge, and Anna Givens Harrison (1853-1946). She married Amos Hendry Norris (1873-1950), the owner of a mill supply company, on November 28, 1893. The couple had one child, who died in infancy. Julia Harrison Norris was active in a number of community, state, and national organizations. She was a member of the First Methodist Church of Tampa, where she was the church organist and a Sunday School teacher. At various times she was president of the Tampa Civic Association, Parliamentarian of Tampa's Woman's Club, Treasurer of the Tampa League of Women's Clubs, and president of the Hillsborough County Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1919, she was elected chair of the National American Woman Suffrage Association's Legislative Committee.

In 1920, Tampa citizens voted to replace the city's aldermanic system of government with a board of commissioners. The change was supported by the local Commission Government Club, composed of both men and women members, including Amos Norris. Prior to the election to fill the commission seats, the club agreed that, in nominating their slate of candidates, they would not nominate any women candidates. However, Amos Norris nominated his wife, Julia Harrison Norris, for a seat on the Commission. Despite the protest of other members of the club, including women members who considered her nomination an "unfortunate mistake," Julia Harrison Norris remained in the race. She lost in the primary, receiving 957 votes out of 22,339 cast.

Julia Harrison Norris was active in the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She served two terms as president of the Tampa Chapter of the organization. She also served in a number of official roles in the Florida Division of the UDC, including President, Treasurer General, chair of a committee advocating for a home for Confederate veterans, and chair of the Education Committee. The work of the latter committee included awarding college scholarships for women and men, sponsoring essay contests on topics related to the Confederacy, and donating books and portraits of Confederate leaders to Florida schools. In the early 1930s, she served as chairwoman of the Mrs. Norman V. Randolph Relief Fund, which provided financial assistance to widows of Confederate veterans.

In 1934, Walter White, head of the NAACP, asked Julia Harrison Norris to testify at a congressional hearing in support of the Costigan-Wagner Act, a proposed federal anti-lynching law. Though she initially agreed to testify, Norris later backed out, citing her concern that the law ceded too much state authority to the federal government. She was opposed to lynching and agreed that efforts up to this point had been ineffective in stopping it, but believed in addressing the problem through education programs and state laws, rather than federal intervention.

Julia Harrison Norris died on January 3, 1964 at age 89.

Sources:

Mary Claire Crake, "'In Unity There is Strength': Women's Clubs in Tampa During the 1920s," Tampa Bay History 11, no. 2 (1989): 5-21.

Eloise N. Cozens. Florida Women of Distinction. Lawrence Kansas: Coronado Publishing Company, 1956.

Mary Jane Brown. "Eradicating this Evil": Women in the American Anti-Lynching Movement, 1892-1940, PhD dissertation, the Ohio State University, 1998.

"Find A Grave Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVK3-9G6Y : 11 July 2016), Julia Harrison Norris, 1964; Burial, Tampa, Hillsborough, Florida, United States of America, Oaklawn Cemetery; citing record ID 35918590, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com.

"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:STM5-L2M : accessed 12 November 2017), Amos H Norris, Tampa, Hillsborough, Florida, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 17, sheet 5A, line 44, family 140, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 318; FHL microfilm 2,340,053.

"Florida Marriages, 1837-1974," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FW31-662 : 12 December 2014), Amos H. Norris and Miss Julia A. Harrison, 28 Nov 1893; citing Tampa, Hillsborough, Florida; FHL microfilm 979,059.

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