Biographical Sketch of Alma Dorsey Birdsall

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alma Dorsey Birdsall, 1866-1932

By Jenifer Ishee Hoffman, Manuscripts Librarian, Mississippi State University

Woman Suffrage Activist

Alma Dorsey Birdsall was born July 2, 1866, in the city of Mechanicsburg, in Yazoo County, Mississippi. Her parents were George Washington Dorsey and Josephine Cowan Dorsey. After completing high school in Mechanicsburg, she attended Whitworth Female College in Brookhaven, Mississippi, graduating with high honors. At the time, Whitworth was a two-year Methodist women's college. After graduation, Ms. Dorsey taught school for nine years in Yazoo County. She married Frank Rider Birdsall at Trinity Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on October 11, 1893, and the couple had a large reception in Vicksburg, as well as in Yazoo City. They initially made their home in Pulaski, Tennessee, where her husband ran the Giles County Record. After two years in Pulaski, they returned to Yazoo City, where her husband purchased and ran the Yazoo Sentinel. Mrs. Birdsall suffered from malaria in the summer of 1915, and concerns for her health were published in the Yazoo Herald.

Birdsall was a prominent figure in Yazoo City and involved in the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA), holding the posts of secretary and vice-president. During this time, the MWSA enlisted the help of newspaper editors across the state to further their cause through publicized announcements and articles. As early as 1907, her husband was listed among the “friendly editors.” In 1913, the Jackson Daily News reported that Birdsall had written an article titled “Why Women Ought to Vote” which appeared in the Yazoo Sentinel. On October 2, 1914, an article appearing in the Yazoo Herald, announced the election of Annie Kincaid Dent and Alma Birdsall to President and Vice-President, respectively, of the MWSA. The article further declared, “A better selection could not have been made as they are wonderfully gifted with brains and an amount of executive ability that falls to the lot of but few.” In 1917, Birdsall was listed among as a member of the official MWSA board.

Unfortunately, her husband, Frank Birdsall, met a tragic end on April 2, 1930, when he was shot to death by the Mayor of Yazoo City, J.T. Stricklin. Apparently their dispute resulted from an article in the Sentinel indicting the Mayor of calf-stealing. After his attack on Frank Birdsall, the Mayor drove to his son's funeral home and took his own life. Numerous newspapers articles were published by the Mississippi press about the unfortunate events.

After her husband's death, Birdsall continued as the owner and editor of the Sentinel. Shortly before her death, Birdsall purchased the Yazoo County News with the intention of consolidating it with the Sentinel. According to an article appearing in the Clarion Ledger on March 16, 1932, Birdsall “possessed a strong command of the English language and her writings were characterized by great vigor. They were forceful and fearless and a true index to her inner thoughts and character.” Birdsall passed away at her home in Yazoo City on March 14, 1932, and is interned at Glenwood Cemetery.

Sources:

Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 327, 333. [LINK]

Jackson Daily News (Jackson, Mississippi), December 26, 1913, p. 4. Available through Newspapers.com.

“Mrs. F.R. Birdsall Dies in Sleep at Yazoo City” Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi), March 16, 1932, p 1. Available through Newspapers.com.

“Political War Ends in Death Editor, Mayor.” Kingsport Times, (Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee), April 2, 1930, p 1. Available through Newspapers.com.

The Yazoo Herald (Yazoo City, Mississippi), October 2, 1914, p. 8. Available through Newspapers.com.

The Yazoo Herald (Yazoo City, Mississippi), October 13, 1893, p 3. Available through Newspapers.com.

The Yazoo Herald (Yazoo City, Mississippi), September 10, 1915, p. 8. Available through Newspapers.com.

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