Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Veva Etheline (Mrs. Bertram) Storrs, 1875-1950
By Richard Aitchison, Undergraduate Student, and Professor Elisa Miller, Rhode Island College
Suffragist, Newport County Woman Suffrage League; Community Leader
Veva Storrs played a key role as a suffragist in the Southern East Bay region of Rhode Island in the towns of Portsmouth and Newport. She was born Veva Etheline Potter on August 30, 1875 in Canton, New York to John and Kate Potter of Canton, NY. She attended college at St. Lawrence University, graduating in 1902. The following year, she married Dr. Berton W. Storrs of Morristown, NJ and the couple moved to Portsmouth, RI where he established a medical practice. Dr. Storrs had high-profile medical positions in the area, serving for many years as the medical examiner of Newport and chairman of the state health commission. They had no children but numerous nieces and nephews. Bertron and Veva Storrs became prominent in the East Bay community and were often mentioned in the local papers. Frequently these reports refer to them with misspelled names—usually as Dr. Bertram Storrs and Mrs. Bertram Storrs. When her contributions to the Rhode Island suffrage movement were detailed in volume 6 of The History of Woman Suffrage, she is listed as Mrs. Bertram Storrs. In her 1950 obituary for The Providence Journal, mistakenly calls her Eva Storrs.
Storrs was a supporter of the woman suffrage movement, primarily as a member of the Newport County Woman Suffrage League that was affiliated with the Rhode Island Equal Suffrage Association. Her suffrage activism was part of a close-knit group of neighbors and colleagues in the East Bay region of Rhode Island. The History of Woman Suffrage called this network one of “the nerve centers of suffrage activity in Rhode Island. Other prominent local suffragists in this group include Cora Mitchel, Sarah J. Eddy, Julia Ward Howe and her daughters Maud and Florence, Emeline Eldridge, Mrs. Oscar Miller, and Mrs. Barton Ballou. The History of Women Suffrage celebrated the women for their suffrage activism, stating that they “all rendered priceless service to what was then an unpopular and unfashionable cause...It took some courage in fashionable Newport to ‘come out' for woman suffrage.”
In addition to her suffrage work, Storrs was an active member of her community as a member and officer of clubs including the Portsmouth Historical Society, the Portsmouth Free Public Library Association, the Newport Art Association, the Current Topics Club, the Newport Girl Scouts' Council, the Portsmouth Garden Club, and the St. Paul's Episcopal Church Guild. Through St. Paul's Church, Storrs helped support a local girl's friendly club that provided moral, employment, and social activities for young working-class women. For over thirty years, Storrs was a member of the Women's Club of Newport, serving as a vice president once. She participated in fundraising efforts in Portsmouth to support World War I and served as the Portsmouth representative for the American Red Cross “victory book” campaign committee during World War II to collect and distribute “good” books to disadvantaged young people and families in the area.
Veva Storrs died on March 7, 1950 following a short illness in a Fall River, Massachusetts hospital, surrounded by her husband and family members, and was buried in her hometown of Canton, NY. Many of her organizations in Rhode Island honored her dedicated service to them by paying homage to her at their next meeting or canceling the meeting in tribute.
Ida Husted Harper, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 6: 1900-1920 (New York: J.J. Little & Ives Company, 1922), 577-578. [LINK]
Gloria Schmidt, “Portsmouth Women: Historical Sketches of Women Who Contributed to Our Portsmouth Community” (2018), https://portsmouthhistorynotes.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/portsmouthwomen.pdf, accessed May 28, 2019.
“Portsmouth,” The Newport Mercury, November 30, 1918.
“Illustrated Talk Given at Art Association,” Newport Mercury, April 17, 1936.
“Portsmouth,” Newport Daily News, January 13, 1943.
“Annual Meeting St. Paul Episcopal Church,” Newport Daily News, January 18, 1943.
“Portsmouth Free Library Annual Meeting,” Newport Daily News, March 10, 1943.
“Women Hold Bridge,” The Providence Journal, November 2, 1944.
“Club plans Bridge,” The Providence Journal, October 26, 1944.
“Portsmouth: Tel 898” Newport Daily News, March 15, 1950.
“Mrs. Bertram Storrs of Portsmouth Dies,” Newport Daily News, March 7, 1950.
“Mrs. Eva Storrs,” The Providence Journal, March 8, 1950.