Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Viola Blanche Rogers, 1884-1926
By Nancy Alexander Simmons, Fairfax Station, VA
Woman Suffrage Activist
Viola Blanche Rogers was born December 3, 1884, in Mississippi to Dr. Milford Fenner Rogers and Ada Viola Williamson Rogers. Her father, who had been a Confederate soldier, was a physician and her mother managed the family hotel. In June 1905, Rogers graduated from the arts and sciences department of the University of Mississippi in Oxford. After graduation, she was a teacher in her hometown of New Albany in Union County, Mississippi, where she lived for the rest of her life.
By May 1914, Rogers was active in the Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs (MFWC); she was among the delegates appointed by the MFWC president to represent the state at the national meeting in Chicago, Illinois. In November 1914, Rogers, who was president of the MWFC's Fifth District, was elected the MWFC's recording secretary—a position she held through 1918. In February 1915, The Biloxi Daily Herald reported that the MFWC had awarded Rogers a scholarship for university study, adding that Rogers "has done splendid work in governmental research work, and her work in other lines has won for her unstinted praise." And at the MWFC's annual meeting in April 1920, Rogers was applauded for her work in securing speakers for the program.
Like other suffragists, Rogers's work with the women's club coincided with her suffrage work. In April 1917, Pauline Orr, president of the Mississippi suffragist organization, spoke to several districts on the subject of suffrage. After her speech in New Albany, two new suffrage leagues were formed, one for older women and one for younger women, with Rogers heading up the latter. In the same month, Rogers was elected chair of the institutional department of the Mississippi Woman's Suffrage Association (MWSA) at its meeting in Starkville, Mississippi. By the end of 1919, Rogers represented New Albany on the MWSA's press and publicity committee, whose efforts were aimed at ratification of the federal suffrage amendment during the upcoming legislative session in Mississippi. In April 1920 at the close of the MFWC meeting in Gulfport, Mississippi, three hundred men and women convened at a suffrage luncheon in the Great Southern Hotel. The Biloxi Daily Herald described it as "the biggest history making event ever enacted in Gulfport." One feature of the event was organizing the State League of Women Voters to educate women in citizenship; Rogers was selected as its chairman.
On August 18, 1920, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Rogers, who was then state chairman of the MWSA, asked communities across Mississippi to toll their bells and blow whistles as part of a nationwide celebration of the amendment. Many cities participated, including Vicksburg, Meridian, and Biloxi; however, the Jackson Daily News reported that "Jackson was probably the only one of the larger cities of Mississippi that didn't celebrate the granting of suffrage to women" that day.
Within its first year, the Mississippi League of Women Voters had gained one thousand members. Rogers had resigned as its president due to illness. However, at its November 1922 convention, Rogers was elected its vice-president and was singled out for honors. Prior to the meeting, Rogers had authored a news article that drew attention to the league's proposed legislative agenda and encouraged members and local leagues to help determine its final agenda; her column was reprinted in The Winona Times.
Through her position with the League of Women Voters, Rogers continued to advocate for women's rights. In July 1923, Rogers sent a questionnaire to candidates for state positions—including Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Governor— asking them, "Will you, if elected, favor the appointment of women as County Election Commissioners?" Candidates for State Superintendent of Education were asked if they would support appointing women in their departments, improving state normal schools, and placing colleges under the control of non-partisan boards of trustees. She received favorable answers from several candidates. Not surprisingly, in September1924, Rogers was placed on the election commission in Union County by the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, who placed women voters on election commissions in nearly every county in Mississippi.
Rogers died on March 11, 1926, in New Albany, Mississippi and is buried there in New Albany Cemetery. The August 1926 bulletin of MFWC news was dedicated to Rogers.
1900 U.S. Census, Mississippi. New Albany, Union County, p. 4, Enumeration District 0124. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
1910 U.S. Census, Mississippi. New Albany Ward 1, Union County, p. 3B, Enumeration District 0109. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
"Club Women Elect." The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), November 17, 1916, p. 5. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"Committee Formed for Suffrage Drive." Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), December 17, 1919, p. 3. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Convention of Women's Clubs." Vicksburg Evening Post (Vicksburg, Mississippi), November 11, 1914, p. 7. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Delegates Are Named." The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), May 4, 1914, p. 5. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"Didn't Celebrate Suffrage." Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), August 29, 1920, p. 7. Available through Newspapers.com.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 334, 337. [LINK to MS state report]
"Many Bills to be Presented to Legislature." The Winona Times (Winona, Mississippi), November 3, 1922, p. 8. Available through Newspapers.com
"M.F.W.C. Opens Convention in Gulfport with Large Attendance." The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), April 17, 1920, p. 1. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs Bulletin Gives Year's Plan." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), September 26, 1926, p. 19. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Mrs. B. F. Saunders Again Heads Women's League." The Sun Sentinel (Charleston, Mississippi), November 16, 1922, p. 1. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Mrs. Saunders Heads Club Women of State." Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), November 16, 1917, p. 2. Available through Newspapers.com.
Mrs. Monroe McClurg, "Suffrage News and Notes." The Daily Commonwealth (Greenwood, Mississippi), April 14, 1917, p. 4. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Questionnaires Sent Out by the Women." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), July 29, 1923, p. 4. Available through Newspapers.com.
"State's Women Voters in Firm Organization." The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), November 2, 1921, p. 8. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"Suffrage Luncheon Follows Close of M.W.F.C. Convention." The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), April 20, 1920, p. 1. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"Suffragists Are Happy." The Vicksburg Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi), August 29, 1920, p. 6. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Suffragists of State End Their Convention." Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), April 15, 1917, p. 6. Available through Newspapers.com.
The Biloxi Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), February 16, 1915, p. 6. Available through Newspaperarchive.com.
"The State University: Fifty-Third Annual Commencement will be Held June 4th to 7th." The Vicksburg Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi), May 30, 1905, p. 5. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Women Adjourn Their Meeting." Vicksburg Evening Post (Vicksburg, Mississippi), November 14, 1914, p. 7. Available through Newspapers.com.
"Women Are Given Recognition in County Commission Choices Made in State Election Group." Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), September 5, 1924, p. 6. Available through Newspapers.com.