Vera Virginia Wesley Greene

 

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Vera Virginia (Wesley) Greene, 1890-1983

 

By Linda D. Wilson, Independent Historian

Born on January 26, 1890, in Missouri, African American suffragist Vera Virginia Wesley Greene was the daughter of John and Ellen Wesley. In 1900 the family lived in Sedalia Township, Pettis County, Missouri, where John Wesley worked as a day laborer. By 1910 Vera Wesley worked as a manicurist and lived with her sister Sallie and brother-in-law John Thomas in Chicago, Illinois. On August 12, 1913, Wesley married James A. Greene in Chicago, where he worked as a postal clerk. He was a member of a government employees’ club known as Phalanx. Their only child, daughter Beverly Lorraine, was born on October 4, 1915, in Chicago. By 1930 Vera Greene was divorced and worked as a maid for the railroad. Ten years later she and her daughter continued to live in Chicago. (1)

As a suffragist Vera Greene served as recording secretary for the Alpha Suffrage Club, organized by Ida B. Wells-Barnett and established in Chicago in 1913. Greene wrote resolutions honoring the work accomplished by Congressman Martin B. Madden for protecting African Americans’ rights. She also asserted that the club supported Oscar De Priest as the first black alderman on the Chicago City Council. Both short compositions were published in the first issue of the Alpha Suffrage Record published in March 1914. On March 6, 1915, the Broad Ax newspaper published Greene’s report on the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs’ meeting at the Herman Baptist Church in Chicago. (2)

The Alpha Suffrage Club was particularly active in registering black women to vote after the Illinois state legislature approved municipal and presidential voting for women in 1913. With the elections in 1914 and 1915, club members were energetic in getting out the black vote and focusing the vote on electing a “race man” to represent the Second Ward in Chicago politics. Historians generally credit the work of the Club as crucial in the 1915 election of Oscar DePriest as the first black alderman in Chicago.

Vera Greene never remarried and died in April 1983 in Chicago. Daughter Beverly received her education at the University of Illinois and became one of the first African American women licensed as an architect. She never married and died in 1957 at the age of 41. Vera Greene’s ex-husband James A. Greene remarried and died in 1959. (3)

SOURCES: Alpha Suffrage Record (Chicago, IL) 1:1 (March 18, 1914). Black's Blue Book: Business and Professional Directory: A Compilation of Names, Addresses and Telephones of all Chicago's Colored Business and Professional People (Chicago: Ford S. Black, 1918). Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), March 6, 1915. Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), August 26, 1957 and February 24, 1959. Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018. Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018. Wanda A. Hendricks, Gender, Race, and Politics in the Midwest: Black Club Women in Illinois (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998). Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998). U.S. Census 1900, Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri. U.S. Census, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018.

See also:

Lisa G. Materson, For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on race and sex in America (New York: Bantam Books, 1985).

Maureen A. Flanagan, Seeing With Their Hearts: Chicago women and the vision of the good city, 1871-1933 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (Bloomington: Univ. of Indiana press, 1998), pp. 98-99.

(1) Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018. Black's Blue Book: Business and Professional Directory: A Compilation of Names, Addresses and Telephones of all Chicago's Colored Business and Professional People (Chicago: Ford S. Black, 1918), 45. Cook County, Illinois, Birth Certificates Index, 1871-1922, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018. U.S. Census 1900, Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri. U.S. Census, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

(2) Wanda A. Hendricks, Gender, Race, and Politics in the Midwest: Black Club Women in Illinois (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 90. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998), 99. “Alpha Suffrage Club,” Wikipedia, accessed August 21, 2018. The Alpha Suffrage Record (Chicago, IL) 1:1 (March 18, 1914). Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), March 6, 1915.

(3) “Alpha Suffrage Club,” Wikipedia, accessed August 21, 2018.

(4) The Alpha Suffrage Record (Chicago, IL) 1:1 (March 18, 1914).

Vera Wesley Green, “Meeting of the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs at the Herman Baptist Church,” The Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT), March 6, 1915, p. 1.

(5) Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1957 and February 24, 1959.

(6) U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, accessed on Ancestry.com on July 19, 2018.

 

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