Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Florence Ethel Weigle, 1884-1972
By Joseph Bell and Debrielle Patee-Merrill, undergraduate students, Northwest Missouri State University. Edited by Dr. Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University
#x200eFlorence Ethel Weigle was born on May 20, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her family was well off financially as her father, Edward Bryson Weigle, was a lawyer in Pennsylvania before moving his family to St. Louis and pursuing a career with the M. K. & T. Railroad. Elizabeth (Craig) Weigle, her mother, passed away while Florence was in her early twenties. Florence attended St. Louis public schools and graduated from Central High School in 1902. After graduating from high school, she pursued a law degree at St. Louis University and joined the Women's Bar Association and the St. Louis Bar Association following her graduation in 1917. She later became the Assistant Circuit Attorney. Florence excelled in her craft, and in a return to St. Louis University, she was inducted into the Kappa Beta Pi Legal Honor Society in 1927. Florence Ethel Weigle did not stop pushing boundaries after attaining her degree; she also pushed for women to have more political rights.#x200e
St. Louis was the birthplace of the women's suffrage movement in Missouri. There the first women's suffrage group, the Women's Suffrage Association of Missouri, was formed in 1867. The group's work was difficult because Missouri was labeled a “black state,” meaning a state that was against women having the right to vote. Missouri repeatedly voted against enfranchising women. In response to this, the suffragists formed several different activist groups, including the Women's Equal Suffrage Association, which was founded in 1911.#x200e
Florence was quick to join the fight for women's suffrage. She became a member of the Women's Equal Suffrage Association, later renamed the Business and Profession League of Women Voters. In 1918 she was elected as the president of the group, a position she held until 1920. After attaining the vote, Florence continued to give lectures around the Greater St. Louis area about the importance of civic involvement and the ever-expanding role of women in law.
Florence Weigle never married and eventually lived with one of her younger sisters and her brother-in-law. She stayed in St. Louis and continued her work, albeit at a more relaxed pace, until her death in August of 1972.
For more on pioneer women lawyers, see Virginia G. Drachman, Sisters in Law: Women Lawyers in Modern American History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998). See also Walter Barlow Stevens, Centennial History of Missouri: One Hundred Years in the Union 1820-1921, Volume III (St. Louis: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921). Her suffrage work appears in Margot McMillen's The Golden Lane: How Missouri Women Gained the Vote and Changed History (The History Press, 2011).