Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Ruth Amelia Reeder Woodall, 1862-1954
By Kristina Graves, historian and educator, Stilwell School of the Arts, Atlanta, Georgia
Recording Secretary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and active in the Georgia suffrage movement
Ruth Amelia Reeder was born in Georgia in 1862. Her parents were Nathaniel Reeder of South Carolina and Isabella Liddell of Georgia. Nathaniel Reeder served in the Sixteenth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Wounded in battle in 1862, Nathaniel was captured by Union soldiers and sent to a military hospital in Maryland where he died of infection. His wife, Isabella, was left to take care of their children, including Amelia and her twin sister, Adelia, and her older brother, Daniel.
On July 21, 1890, Amelia married Robert D. Woodall in Fulton County, Georgia. Robert Woodall was a real estate agent in the Atlanta area. After Robert's sudden death in 1911, Amelia moved in with her twin sister's family, which included Adelia (sister), Robert Hilley (brother-in-law), Amelia and Isabella Hilley (two nieces), and Isabella Reeder (mother). Woodall spent the rest of her adult life as the widowed aunt in the Hilley family. Since she and Robert never had children, Woodall doted on her two nieces and encouraged them to get involved in suffrage activism.
In 1913, Woodall was chosen to be the treasurer for Dekalb County Equal Suffrage Association and the corresponding secretary for the Georgia Young People's Suffrage Association. Her niece, Amelia Hilley would serve as vice-president of this organization in 1917, a testament to her aunt's influence and involvement in the movement. Woodall served as the corresponding secretary for the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association in 1915 and was heavily involved in federal activities organized by the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the state suffrage campaign efforts led by GWSA. In 1915, Woodall and other Atlanta suffragists organized the city's first suffrage parade. This parade encompassed eighty cars and suffragists carrying 200 banners that were on loan from the New York suffrage parade. The Atlanta parade is unique because it did not have protests but the Atlanta police refused to provide order for the parade. Suffragists were forced to march among onlookers and street car traffic.
That same year, Woodall became part of a coordinating committee that had members from suffrage organizations in Fulton and Dekalb counties. The Fulton and Dekalb Counties Branch of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia was created for the purpose of establishing a strong municipal suffrage campaign in the city of Atlanta. Woodall served as Treasurer of the committee. From 1915 to 1919, this committee worked to coordinate municipal suffrage efforts among the major suffrage organizations in the state.
Woodall was elected to serve as the President of the Atlanta branch of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia in 1916. Additionally, she was the Treasurer and the Chair for the Atlanta Suffrage Organization. Woodall also served as the president of the Atlanta Equal Suffrage Association, an auxiliary chapter organization of the GWSA, in 1917 and attended committee hearings at the Georgia General Assembly on the issue of suffrage with fellow Georgia suffragist, Mary Latimer McLendon. Woodall was respected for her knowledge and views on property rights and suffragists contacted her asking for her assistance with using this information to argue for suffrage. She was instrumental in the decision to distribute copies of The Woman's Journal in the Atlanta area as a way of promoting the suffrage movement.
In 1919, Woodall and other suffrage leaders in Atlanta worked to gain women access to vote in the white primary. The resulting campaign was a success, one that suffragists nationwide believed “was beautiful and it carries with it a significance out of all proportion to the amount of suffrage obtained just because it was obtained in Georgia.” After municipal suffrage was achieved, Woodall received recognition for being the first woman in the city of Atlanta to register to vote. The Atlanta Journal remarked that Woodall was a “pioneer” for her suffrage activism and the Atlanta Constitution called Woodall “one of the city's most faithful workers for suffrage” in the state.
Amelia died in Dekalb County, Georgia on January 20, 1954 and is buried in Rock Springs Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Atlanta.
A photograph of Amelia Reeder Woodall can be found in the Atlanta History Photograph Collection at the Atlanta History Center. The photograph is accessible through the Digital Library of Georgia: http://album.atlantahistorycenter.com/cdm/ref/collection/athpc/id/666.
“3 Branches of Suffragists Plan Union.” Atlanta Georgian. 9 May 1916.
“400 Atlanta Women.” Atlanta Constitution. 27 May 1919.
“First to Register.” Atlanta Journal. 26 May 1919.
“Fulton and Dekalb County Branch of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia,” 1915 Booklet. Georgia Women's Suffrage Collection. Georgia Archives.
Georgia Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960, Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
Georgia Health Department, Office of Vital Records; Georgia, USA; Indexes of Vital Records for Georgia: Deaths, 1919-1998; Certificate Number: 601.
Georgia, Marriage Records From Select Counties, 1828-1978. Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vols. V and VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.
Letter from PMC to Emily McDougall. 20 June 1916. Georgia Women's Suffrage Collection. Georgia Archives.
Letter from Mary Latimer McLendon to Rose Young. 22 September 1917. Georgia Women's Suffrage Collection. Georgia Archives.
Letter from Rose Young to Emily McDougal. 9 May 1919. Georgia Women's Suffrage Collection. Georgia Archives.
“Mrs. McLendon Again Head Suffragists.” Atlanta Journal. 11 July 1913.
“Miss Raoul Given Appointment by National Suffrage Board.” Atlanta Journal. April 9, 1916.
“Municipal Suffrage is Now the Goal of Women in Atlanta Association.” Atlanta Journal. January 1917.
“Suffragettes to Sell Woman's Journal Here.” Atlanta Journal. 5 March 1917.
Taylor, Elizabeth. “Woman Suffrage Activities in Atlanta,” in The Atlanta Historical Journal, 1979-1980, Volume XXIII, Number 4.
Telegram from Emily McDougall to NAWSA, 1915, Georgia Women's Suffrage Collection. Georgia Archives.
United States Bureau of the Census, 10th Census of the United States, 1880-Population, Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
United States Bureau of the Census, 11th Census of the United States, 1890-Population, Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
United States Bureau of the Census, 14th Census of the United States, 1920-Population, Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
United States Bureau of the Census, 24th Census of the United States, 1940-Population, Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
United States City Directories: Atlanta (1911-1912), 1822-1995. Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
United States Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current. Accessed via Ancestry.com. Website.
“Women Ask Vote in all Primaries.” Atlanta Constitution. 6 May 1919.