Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Vernona R. Henry, 1848-1954
By Kelsey Brow, Curator, King Manor Museum, Jamaica, New York and Lisa Hendrickson, Independent Historian
Vernona Beatrice Henry*, born in New York on October 18, 1878, was the daughter of Maximillian Raefle (1836-1904) and Sarah Olmstead Bunce Raefle (1844-1911). Her father emigrated from Germany in 1852 and fought in the Civil War, enlisting in the 39th New York Infantry Regiment in 1861. He studied medicine at Humboldt College in St. Louis. Raefle was commissioned Surgeon in the U.S. Navy and later became a practicing doctor. Her mother was an eighth-generation descendant of the well known Olmsted family. The family lived in New York first at 31 East 62nd Street in 1880 and later at 115 East 19th Street in 1900. Vernona studied drawing at Cooper Union in New York and later graduated from Hunter College in 1899, initially working as a teacher by 1900. For many years she was the head of the personnel departments at Bamburgers department stores in Newark, NJ and Abraham Strauss department stores in New York. She married Charles M. Henry, and they had one son named Persis B. Henry who only lived from 1907-1909. The couple lived at 160 Westervelt Avenue in Plainfield, NJ. By 1910, Federal Census records show her as a widow living with her mother in Bridgewater, NJ. In 1924 at age 46 she passed the bar with top honors and started a law practice in Newark, NJ with Paula Laddey. The 1930 Federal census records show that Vernona was living at 143 Summer Avenue in Newark and that she was a lawyer. By 1940, census records show she was retired and residing with Paula Laddey in Montclair, NJ. Paula was the daughter of Clara Laddey, a well known NJ suffragist. Records show that Paula was a probation officer specializing in work with children. She was member of the New Jersey Legal Aid Review and was appointed its executive secretary in 1915; one of the few female officers in national legal aid organizations. She also was an advocate for women's legal rights.
Vernona R. Henry was a member of the Equal Suffrage League of Plainfield. She one of the editors who “took over” The Plainfield Daily Press creating the Suffragist Edition for Suffrage Day in New Jersey on May 2, 1910. At the November 1911 New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association (NJWSA) convention held in Passaic, NJ, Mrs. Henry was elected recording secretary. Not a lot was written about her suffrage participation, but she did attend the first New Jersey suffrage parade sponsored by NJWSA in Newark in October 1912. She was a contributing editor to the Votes for Women” section in the Plainfield Daily Press, conducted by the Equal Suffrage League of Plainfield and North Plainfield as advertised in The Plainfield Daily News. A regular speaker at events, one of her presentations was titled, “Reasons Why Woman Suffrage is Right.” At an event held by the Young Friends' Association in April 1912, she gave a presentation in favor of Woman's Suffrage and “spoke extemporaneously to the group about the matter of women being represented in the polls as well as in the home.” By 1913, she was no longer an officer in the NJWSA organization.
In 1946, Vernona moved to St. Albans, Vermont and bought the Cummings Press (also known as the North Country Press). She was president of the firm and active in the business until her illness. She was a member of the American Bar Association, and St. Luke's Episcopal Church. She died in St. Albans on April 2, 1954 after a long illness. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
*There are many different spellings of her name in historic records including: Vernola Raefle, Verona R. Henry, Vernona H. Henry, Mrs. Beatrice Henry
Lurie, Maxine N., Marc Mappen, Encyclopedia of New Jersey, (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2004), pg. 882. https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0813533252
Ward, George Kemp, Genealogy of the Olmsted Family in America: Embracing the Descendants of James and Richard Olmsted, (New York, A.T. de la Mare Publishing and Printing, Ltd. 1912), pg. 357.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan Brownell Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage 1900-1920, (New York, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922), pg. 419. https://books.google.com/books?id=l84TAAAAIAAJ
New Jersey Review of Charities and Corrections, Volume 6 (1907), pg. 11 & Volume 10 (1911), pg. 114. https://books.google.com/books?id=bv4_AQAAMAAJ
Leonard, John W., Woman's Who's Who of America, (New York, The American Commonwealth Co. 1914), pg. 469. https://books.google.com/books?id=PMQ-AQAAMAAJ
Women Lawyers' Journal, Volumes 1-4, (New York, 1911), pg.71.
“Votes for Women,” The Plainfield Daily Press (Plainfield, NJ), March 6, 1912, pg. 5.
“Read Paper on Woman's Suffrage,” The Courier-News (Bridgewater, NJ), April 8, 1912, pg. 10.
“Suffragists in Ballot Parade,” Newark Evening News, October 28, 1912, pg. ?
“Mrs. Vernona Henry Dies in St. Albans,” The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, VT), April 2, 1954, pg. 2.
- US City Directories 1822-1995
- Federal Census 1880, 1900, 1910, 1930, 1940
- Find a grave
- New York Deaths and Births (Persis B. Henry)
Special Thanks for Sarah Hull- Archivist & Head of Local History, Genealogy & Special Collections at Plainfield Library for tracking down articles and dates on Vernona & her family
Picture of the suffragist editors on May 2, 1910- Suffrage Day in New Jersey
“Editors of Today's Press at Work." Plainfield Daily Press, May 2, 1910, page 1.