Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Victoria J. Roach, 1877-1967
By Spencer Hurlbut, Arkansas Tech University
Activist in the Suffrage movement
Victoria James Roach was a white woman born in Tennessee in 1877. She married Joseph “Joe” Jackson Roach of Fayetteville, Tennessee in 1895 at the age of 18. Roach gave birth to two children. Between the years of 1895 and 1897 Victoria Roach's first child passed away. In 1898 Roach gave birth to a son named Joe Conly Roach.
By 1910, Victoria and her husband Joseph Roach were a prominent and prosperous family in Nashville. The census of 1910 documents Victoria as a homemaker. Roach benefitted from the labor of a servant, a 30-year-old mixed-race woman, Idelia Kenneday.
Roach became a suffrage activist and remained a well-known Nashville figure for many years. On May 2, 1914 Victoria Roach acted as the assistant chairman for the May-day suffrage rally held at Centennial Park in Nashville. When asked by a reporter of The Tennessean why she supported votes for women, Roach responded, “I am for suffrage because women want to give really effective help to all great movements for human advancement, and because women want to do the mother work of the world, and because women are human and are anxious to do their part in human work.” In 1915, Roach served on 7-member lobbying committee to assist in the push for a state constitutional amendment to allow woman suffrage in Tennessee.
Victoria Roach's husband died in 1916. Roach cut expenses by relinquishing her house servant renting out the rooms of her house. By 1919, she worked as the secretary of the municipal bureau of inspections and permits for the city of Nashville. Roach continued her work in organizing women's political activity. She attended the second annual convention for the League of Women Voters in Memphis in 1921.
In 1941, after 22 years of working for the city of Nashville, Victoria petitioned to leave her job due to an unspecified illness. In 1955, she lost her only surviving child, Joe Conly Roach, to a heart attack. Victoria Roach continued to advocate for her community. In 1961, an article in The Tennessean profiled Roach, quoting her as stating, “I think the sweetest thing in the world is to make friends and keep them...[I am] in love with love....[and] I think I'm a little too liberal.” Mentions of Roach in The Tennessean's “colored death notices” section as a “devoted friend” hint that Victoria may have been at least a little more progressive than other white women of her time on issues of race, although more information is needed to be sure.
Victoria James Roach passed away in Nashville in 1967 at the age of 90.
“Back in Office.” The Tennessean, April 6, 1929. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Sat__Apr_6__1929_.pdf.
“Colored Death Notices.” The Tennessean, July 7, 1960. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Thu__Jul_7__1960_.pdf.
“Colored Death Notices.” The Tennessean, October 1, 1957. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Thu__Jul_7__1960_.pdf.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage Vol. VI. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. P. 601. [LINK]
“Joseph Jackson Roach.” The Tennessean, June 18, 1908. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Thu__Jul_7__1960_.pdf.
“League of Women Voters of State Hold Second Annual Convention.” The Tennessean, October 23, 1921. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Sun__Oct_23__1921_.pdf.
“Meeting Set Monday.” The Tennessean, February 7, 1941. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Fri__Feb_7__1941_.pdf.
“Mrs. Joseph J. Roach.” The Tennessean, May 3, 1914. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Sun__May_3__1914_.pdf.
“Roach.” The Tennessean, June 12, 1967. Accessed May 1, 2019. https://outlook.office365.com/owa/?realm=atu.edu&path=/attachmentlightbox.
“What Season Means to 3 This Year.” The Tennessean, December 24, 1961. Accessed May 1, 2019. file:///C:/Users/Spencer%20Hurlbut/Downloads/The_Tennessean_Sun__Dec_24__1961_.pdf.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules, 1900, 1910, 1940. Heritagequest.com.
Tennessee Death Records. 1916. Heritagequest.com.