Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Vida Newsom, 1873-1938
By Eric LoPresti
Vida Newsom was born on January 4, 1873 to Jesse and Mary (Cox) Newsom in Columbus, Indiana, where she would live until her death in 1938. A descendent of prominent Quaker families who moved into Indiana in 1818, Newsom received an AB from Indiana University in 1903, where she continued to study until she obtained her Master of Arts degree in 1906.
Referred to by The Evening Republic as the “most active woman in civic and women's clubs” in Columbus' history, Newsom would take on key roles in multiple clubs and organizations, often simultaneously. She regularly focused on issues of social work, such as the importance of access to playgrounds for children. She served as President of the Columbus Playground Association from 1911-13, where she helped secure legislation providing the appropriation of funds for playground purposes. Miss Newsom was also an advocate for education and spreading awareness of mental health issues. She served as Vice President and Executive Committee member of the Society for Mental Hygiene from 1916-31; as State Chairman of the Division of Mental Health, Indiana Federation of Women's Clubs, from 1923-31, and Adviser in Mental Hygiene for the Division of Public Health, General Federation of Women's Clubs from 1926-32.
Vida Newsom was also a tireless advocate for women's suffrage, serving in both local and statewide organizations focused on voting rights. In her home town of Columbus, she served as President of the Columbus Franchise League from 1912-20, and President of the Columbus League of Women Voters from 1920-24. At the same time, Newsom was also the one of the first Vice Presidents of the Legislative Council of Women, holding the post from 1915-21, and was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Women's Franchise League of Indiana from 1915-18.
In addition to her social and suffrage work, Newsom was also an avid scholar of local history. She was a founding member of the Bartholomew County Historical Society (BCHS), and served as the organization's Treasurer and Publicity Chairman from its founding in 1921 to 1931. She also worked as the Bartholomew County World War historian, compiling a complete list of the gold star record of the county, which was recognized as one of the most complete gold star records in the state by the Director of the State Historical Commission. Beyond Bartholomew County, Newsome wrote an article, “Phases of Southeastern Indian History,” which was published in the Indiana Magazine of History in 1924.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. History of Woman Suffrage Vol. IV (1900-1920). National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Indiana Board of State Charities. Indiana Bulletin of Charities and Correction. Indianapolis: Indiana Board of State Charities, 1911. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=5xoXAAAAYAAJ&pg=GBS.PP9
Indiana Board of State Charities. Indiana Bulletin of Charities and Correction, no. 131. Indianapolis: Indiana Board of State Charities, 1922. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=rkXKAAAAMAAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA223
“Museum History.” Bartholomew County Historical Society. http://bartholomewhistory.org/about/mission-history/
Newsom, Vida. “Phases of Southeastern Indiana History.” Indiana Magazine of History 20, no. 1 (1924): 37-58. https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/6322/6361
Roll, Charles. Indiana, One Hundred and Fifty Years of Development, Vol. 3. New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1931. Accessed from http://debmurray.tripod.com/indiana/indbioref-192.htm
“Vida Newsom Found Dead in Her Bedroom.” The Evening Republican (Columbus, IN), July 11, 1938. Accessed from https://www.newspapers.com
“Vida Newsom: Champion of Human Rights.” The Republic (Columbus, IN), July 2, 1976. Accessed from https://www.newspapers.com