Biographical Sketch of Adelaide Victoria Leonard

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard

By Samantha Bibeau and Rachel Gondrezick, students: Saint Martin's University, Lacey, WA

Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard, Silver City, Idaho

Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard was born in Exeter, Maine on May 11, 1840 and died on May 1, 1916 in Alameda County, California.  On March 26, 1867, Adelaide married Mr. Robert H. Leonard Sr. in San Francisco, but the couple soon moved to Silver City, Idaho, where they lived happily for many years and started a family. Adelaide and Robert had three children, Lewis F., Robert H. Jr., and a daughter named Adelaide Emily Ryan. All three of Adelaide and Robert's children resided in Idaho, in Silver City, except for Adelaide Emily Ryan, who resided in Boise. Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard was surely a beloved wife and mother, but was a hardworking suffragist as well. She was a member of the Rebekah Branch of Odd Fellowship and the second president of the Rebekah State Assembly.

As a motivated female citizen, and prominent social figure in Silver City, it is not surprising that Adelaide Victoria Leonard became interested in the women's suffrage movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time period, Idaho was a distinctly populist state with major movements for labor reform in their mining districts. Following the example of three other Western states, in 1896, Idaho adopted a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.   

The Women's Suffrage Amendment was approved in November 1896. This general election was extremely significant; the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had printed over 50,000 slips encouraging voters to check yes, allowing women the right to vote. These slips were sent to every precinct in Idaho, and passed on Election Day as a last-minute reminder to voters. Mrs. Adelaide Leonard is largely remembered for her persistence; standing “ankle-deep in snow” distributing reminders and encouragement to pass ballots in favor of women's rights. her hard work did pay off, resulting in 12,000 votes in favor of the Amendment, while only around 6,000 were against it. However, the number of electors voting on the Amendment was not as great as the largest number of electors voting on the candidates. Essentially, this required a majority of all the electors to ratify the amendment, which was soon taken up at the Supreme Court. After weeks of waiting, it was finally decided that a majority of those voting on the question was sufficient to pass the Amendment. With this decision, the women of Idaho were enfranchised, and officially given their right to vote.

The success in granting women the right to vote in Idaho cannot be attributed to just one individual; rather, it was the cooperation of numerous women and men who contributed to this effort. Without the dedication and hard work from women like Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard, the votes for women and by women would have likely been drastically different. Mrs. Adelaide Victoria Leonard deserves to be remembered for her accomplishments and perseverance as a strong-willed, intelligent, and all around outstanding suffragist in America.

Sources:

Anthony, S.B., and Harper, I.H.,eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. (1902). [LINK]

The Owyhee County Historical Society. (1898). A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial

Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=KRg1AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=Mrs+R.H.+Leonard+Sr.+from+Silver+City+Idaho&source=bl&ots=h5qURXHU3b&sig=r6aryua_gK7VRVKUemD0lc5EG38&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiul-7eseTWAhWLr1QKHYFMCEUQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=Mrs%20R.H.%20Leonard%20Sr.%20from%20Silver%20City%20Idaho&f=false

The Lewis Publishing Company. (1899). An Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Retrieved from:https://books.google.com/books?id=TB5PAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA86&lpg=PA86&dq=Mrs.+Adelaide+Victoria+Leonard+Silver+City+ID&source=bl&ots=xCCyN2haTp&sig=6-HS3mxlzzeIpj_la7lttJcSmBQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwijoIrlh4fXAhUlr1QKHa7IDVUQ6AEILDAC#v=onepage&q=Mrs.%20Adelaide%20Victoria%20Leonard%20Silver%20City%20ID&f=false

Stanton, E.C., Anthony, S.B., Gage, M., Blatch, H.S., Harper, I.H., eds., The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. VI. (1922). [LINK]

Barnard, Kathy. “Women's Suffrage Right to Vote Came Early in Idaho,” Lewiston Tribune, July 3, 1990. (1990). Retrieved from: http://lmtribune.com/feature/women-s-suffrage-right-to-vote-came-early-in-idaho/article_d6e0296a-ba14-59fe-87e4-2789689dcf38.html

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