Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Evalyn White Edmonds, 1862-1915
By Nancy Alexander Simmons, Fairfax Station, VA
Woman Suffrage Activist
Evalyn White was born in February 1862 in Cynthiana, Kentucky, to John White and Nancy Cheatham White. On February 24, 1887, she married Reverend Ebenezer Thomas (E. T.) Edmonds in Cynthiana; he was a native of Melbourne, Australia. The couple initially remained in Kentucky, where they had two children; by 1894 they had moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where they had three more children. While there, Edmonds was active in the Christian Woman's Board of Missions, a missionary organization run by women to support domestic and foreign missions.
About 1912, Edmonds and her family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where her husband was minister at the First Christian Church. About that time she became active in suffrage activities. She, her husband—who was described as a "militant suffragist"—and their daughter Lois signed cards that read: "I believe in the right of suffrage for women, and I hereby enroll myself as a member of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association."
At a June 4, 1912, meeting of the Equity League of Jackson, which was auxiliary to the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association, Edmonds was elected its president. In December 1912, the Jackson Board of Trade invited the league to participate in a parade shortly after Christmas. The consensus of the league members was that this would be a good way to "advertise the cause."
In March 1913, Edmonds hosted a league meeting at her house, at which Miss Belle Kearney spoke. Kearney was a well-known temperance leader, teacher, and suffragist in Mississippi. The same month, the league decided to fund a float in the Washington, D.C., parade that was held the day before President Woodrow Wilson's inaugural parade. Under Edmonds' leadership, the league wrote a letter commending the editor of the Jackson Daily News on his editorial regarding the influence of the woman voter; discussed support for a fundraising bazaar at the state fair; began publishing notices of its meetings; and presented programs during the meetings on current suffrage events and the "History of the Movement."
On April 15, 1913, the state suffrage convention began in the Senate Chamber of the new Capitol at Jackson. Edmonds, as president of the hosting league, welcomed the guests to the convention "in well chosen words, beautifully spoken." The crowd was reported to be overflowing and chairs had to be brought in from committee rooms to accommodate the audience. The Chaminade Club of Jackson provided music and Mayor Swepson I. Taylor gave the welcome address. Later in the program, Rev. Edmonds spoke on woman suffrage in New Zealand, where he had lived. Edmonds' term as president of the Jackson Equity League ended with elections held at the April 22, 1913, league meeting.
In August 1913, Edmonds was a vice-chairman of one of the committees that prepared for Woman's Day at the State Fair, where many suffrage leagues sponsored tables.
Following a prolonged illness, Edmonds died in Jackson on August 9, 1915, and was buried in Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Jackson. Her grave marker, however, is in the Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky, along with those of other family members.
Edmonds' obituary described her as "a noble, Christian woman" who "had endeared herself to an unusually large number of friends" since moving to Jackson. Shortly after her death, the Rotary Club of Jackson sent Rev. Edmonds a resolution stating "a profound sense of this great loss" at the passing of his wife, describing her as a "lovely Christian spirit" and "splendid woman." And the September 21, 1915, minutes of the Jackson Equity League indicate they sent a letter of condolence to Rev. Edmonds and his daughter Lois, expressing the sympathy of the league in the loss of their wife and mother; they expressed "a deep sense of loss which her passing means to the suffragists of Jackson and the cause in the state."
1900 U.S. Census, Arkansas. Fort Smith Ward 2, Sebastian County, p. 5, Enumeration District 126. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com. Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Ancestry.com. Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1964 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
"Equity League Minutes 1911-1914." Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association. Available online at http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/suffrage.
"Equity League Minutes 1914-1915." Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association. Available online at http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/suffrage.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 331.
"In State Convention." Fort Smith Times, June 4, 1901, p. 1. Available through newspapers.com.
"Insincere As to Suffrage." Boston Daily Globe, January 16, 1911, p. 16. Available through ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
"Miss Belle Kearney in Jackson." Clarion-Ledger, March 9, 1913, p.10. Available through newspapers.com.
"Mrs. Edmonds Dead." The Hattiesburg News, August 11, 1915, p. 6. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87065167/1915-08-11/ed-1/seq-6/
"Mrs. E. T. Edmonds is Dead, Causes Sorrow." Jackson Daily News, August 9, 1915, p. 8. Available through newspapers.com.
"Program of Suffragists." Jackson Daily News, April 9, 1913, p. 3. Available through newspapers.com.
"Resolutions of Sympathy." Jackson Daily News, August 19, 1915, p.5. Available through newspapers.com.
"The C. W. B. M. [Christian Woman's Board of Missions]" Arkansas Democrat, June 5, 1901, p. 2. Available through newspapers.com.
"Woman's Day." The Times-Democrat, August 10, 1913, p. 33. Available through newspapers.com.