Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Lillian Virgin Finnegan, 1877-1938

By Kim Harris, Western History ALIVE! and Mona Reno, Nevada Women's History Project

Douglas County Branch of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, 1914

Lillian May Virgin was born October 6, 1877, to Judge Daniel Webster Virgin and Mary Raycraft Virgin in Genoa, Douglas County, Nevada. Lillian Virgin was educated at Nevada State University, graduating in 1897, and she was a teacher in the Nevada towns of Clear Creek, Genoa, Glenbrook, Golconda and Goldfield. On February 26, 1907, Virgin married Louis Serratt Finnegan, a prominent Goldfield businessman, at her home in Genoa. He is listed in the Goldfield Business Directory of 1907-08 as Secretary of the Goldfield North Star Mining Company.

In Spring 1914, Lillian Virgin Finnegan was a member of the Douglas County Equal Franchise Society. Anne Martin, the president of the Nevada Equal Franchise Society, acknowledged Finnegan's work in her memoirs.

Lillian and Louis Finnegan built a small house on the property of her parents in Genoa, and they spent much time there. In 1919, Lillian Finnegan suggested the idea of a dance and homemade candy sale to raise money to purchase street lights for Genoa. This very successful event, now called the Genoa Candy Dance, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019.

After Nevada women gained the right to vote in 1914, Lillian Finnegan remained active in civic matters. In 1933, she was on the board of the Douglas County Civil Works Administration to choose the projects for 45 men given jobs there.

Louis S. Finnegan died on July 13, 1926, while on business in Cisco, Texas. Lillian Finnegan died in Genoa, Nevada, on February 6, 1938, at the age of 60. They are both buried in the Virgin family plot of the Genoa Cemetery in Douglas County, Nevada. In August 1919, Lillian Virgin Finnegan will be honored in Genoa with a bronze statue in her likeness to commemorate the Candy Dance anniversary.


CAPTION: Portrait of Lillian M. Virgin Finnegan.
CREDIT: Centennial Genoa Candy Dance Statue Project, Genoa, Nevada (@genoacandydance). Images. Facebook. January 9, 2019.


Daily Appeal(Carson City, NV). “Miss Lillian Virgin of Genoa.” September 15, 1906, p. 1.

Daily Appeal(Carson City, NV). “A Well Known Lady Wedded.” February 27, 1907, p. 1.

Douglas County Historical Society, Genoa Courthouse Museum – Courtroom, exhibit, Genoa, NV, 2014.

Find a Grave. Lillian M. Virgin Finnegan. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Goldfield, Esmeralda Co., NV – 1907-1908 Business Directory. Names F-K. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “Nevada.” Chapter XXVII in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, 394-409. [LINK]

Hutcheson, Austin E, ed. “The Story of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Campaign: Memoirs of Anne Martin.” University of Nevada Bulletin 42, no. 7 (August 1948). Accessed March 19, 2019.

Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV). Brevities. “Misses Ellen and Lillian Virgin.” January 7, 1899, p. 3.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, NV). “45 Men Given Douglas Jobs.” December 5, 1933, p. 8.

Rightmire, Billie J. “The History of the Candy Dance.” Town of Genoa, Nevada. Accessed March 19, 2019.

U.S. Census, 1880, 1900, s.v. “Lillian M. Virgin, Genoa, NV.” HeritageQuest.

U.S. Census, 1920, 1930, s.v. “Lillian M. Finnegan, Genoa, NV.” HeritageQuest.

Western States Marriage Index, 1908-2011.

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