Biographical Sketch of Alice B. Overbey Taylor

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alice B. Overbey Taylor, 1879-1919

Written by Brent Tarter for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, a publication of the Library of Virginia. Reprinted with permission.

Alice B. Overbey Taylor (28 July 1879–29 December 1919), woman suffrage activist, was born in Charlotte County, Virginia, and was the daughter of Isaac Jechonias Overbey, a businessman, and Ann L. "Nannie" Bouldin Overbey. Her middle initial probably stood for Bouldin; her mother was a daughter of Wood Bouldin (1811–1876), a member of the Convention of 1861 and of the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and a half-sister of Wood Bouldin (1838–1911), a member of the Convention of 1901–1902. She apparently lived with her mother in Mecklenburg County until after her father died in 1902. She then moved to Richmond with her mother and sisters. On 20 September 1909 in Washington, D.C., she married Doward Miles Taylor, of Richmond. They had no children.

Taylor had a lively wit and published both prose and verse in local newspapers. She joined the campaign for woman suffrage soon after moving to Richmond and wrote strongly worded letters to editors of Richmond newspapers criticizing people who opposed allowing women to vote. In July 1913 she responded to S. Gordon Cumming, a former legislator and possible candidate for attorney general, who had written that he did not wish to see women given the vote, which would degrade them from "the high pedestal" on which God placed them and reduce women to the status of men. Taylor wrote, "I had taken Mr. Cumming to be an honorable gentleman, but since he claims to be on a plane lower than woman I, as a woman, protest against his aspiring to the position of Attorney-General of Virginia, and deny his fitness to govern those who, according to his asseveration, are above him."

From 1913 to 1915 Taylor was executive secretary and office manager of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia. She held the comparable office in the city chapter of the league and was a prominent participant in the state league's work and conventions. The May 1915 issue of the American Home Journal published her short story entitled "Within the Ring" in support of woman suffrage. With her own resources Taylor financed publication of the eight-page monthly Virginia Suffrage News, which became the official organ of the Equal Suffrage League. With Taylor as publisher and managing editor and Richmond suffragist Mary Ellen Pollard Clarke as editor in chief, they published the first issue in October 1914. It included the text of a speech supporting woman suffrage by Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a suffrage essay by novelist Mary Johnston, editorials by Clarke, news from local chapters of the Equal Suffrage League, and reports on activities of suffragists in other states. Over the initials A. O. T., Taylor belittled opponents of woman suffrage, including an unidentified member of the General Assembly.

In the winter of 1914–1915 Taylor suffered an unidentified illness and also lost the source of income with which she had financed publication of Virginia Suffrage News. The paper ceased after a mere three issues. One of Taylor's sisters died in August 1915, and she had to withdraw from active suffrage work for about two years while caring for her mother. By the time Taylor was able to resume working for woman suffrage Edith Clark Cowles, an able organizer, held her former job as the league's office manager and secretary. With the entrance of the United States into World War I in the spring of 1917, the league added work to support the war effort to its agenda. President Lila Meade Valentine appointed Taylor chair of the league's Committee of Agriculture and Thrift. It promoted vegetable gardening to provide food for soldiers and civilians. Taylor was also chair of the league's Committee for the Protection of Women's Labor in 1918.

Taylor continued to wield her pen. In August 1918 she published in The Woman Citizen, a short poem she identified as from a wounded soldier but which she probably composed. In imitation of John McCrae's popular new "In Flanders Fields," it honored the civilian services of women during the war. The following January, Taylor responded in The Woman Citizen with trenchant verse to an assertion in a Richmond newspaper that American Democracy created wide opportunities for all classes of citizens. She concluded,

There're chances for the man in old Virginia
Who seeks them with the ballot in his fist.
But I resent like hades
The status of the ladies
Who politically simply don't exist.

In January 1919 Taylor was named program chair for the Richmond chapter of the Equal Suffrage League. That summer her doctor diagnosed her with cancer. Alice B. Overbey Taylor died at her home in Richmond on 29 December 1919 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Chase City, in Mecklenburg County, near her father. Her husband's body was buried there following his death almost twenty years later.

Sources:

Birth Register, Charlotte Co., Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS), Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia (LVA); variant Oct. 1877 birth date in United States Census Schedules, Mecklenburg Co., 1900, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; District of Columbia Marriage Register; Washington, D.C., Evening Star, 20 Sept. 1909; correspondence and 30 Dec. 1919 memorial resolution of Richmond Equal Suffrage League in Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Records, Accession 22002, LVA; business correspondence and 26 Aug. 1913 letter accepting appointment as headquarters secretary in Adèle Goodman Clark Papers, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Richmond Times Dispatch, 24 July 1913 (first quotations), 27 Apr. 1915 (portrait); Woman Citizen 3 (24 Aug. 1918): 247 (poem) and (18 Jan. 1919): 697 (second quotation); Death Certificate (with variant birth date of 27 July 1879), Richmond City, BVS; death notices in Richmond News Leader and Richmond Virginian, both 30 Dec. 1919, and in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 31 Dec. 1919; memorial in Woman Citizen 4 (17 Jan. 1920): 742.

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