Biographical Sketch of Elizabeth Aymar Cooke Hull

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Elizabeth Aymar Cooke Hull, 1893–1979

By Jaclyn A. Spainhour for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, a publication of the Library of Virginia. Reprinted with permission.

Elizabeth Aymar Cooke Hull (February 1893–15 March 1979), woman suffrage activist and member of the Convention of 1933, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and was the daughter of Mary Elizabeth Dickson Cooke and Merritt Todd Cooke, a Confederate veteran, a real estate developer, and a member of the House of Delegates. She attended the Ogontz School for Young Ladies, an elite finishing school in Philadelphia, and often spent her summers traveling in Europe with family and friends. Shortly after returning from a trip abroad in 1912, she and her sister Kate Talcott Cooke attended the state convention of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and joined the Norfolk branch. Kate Cooke was elected president of the Norfolk Equal Suffrage League in November 1915 and they traveled to Richmond in December to confer with Lila Hardaway Meade Valentine, president of the Virginia league, and to attend the annual state convention. They joined the other delegates in marching to the governor's office, where Elizabeth Cooke was one of the speakers who urged him to support woman suffrage. The episode gained wide publicity in Virginia and was featured in the state's section of The History of Woman Suffrage (1922).

About 1916 Cooke chaired the press committee of the Norfolk league, one of the largest and most active in the state with more than a thousand members. During the 1916 assembly session, she accompanied other suffragists in lobbying Norfolk's members of the legislature to vote for a state suffrage amendment, which failed to pass the House of Delegates in February. She served as president of the Norfolk Equal Suffrage League in 1917, but resigned in November just a few days before she sailed to Europe as a canteen worker with the National War Work Council of the Young Men's Christian Association. Cooke remained in France until April 1919, when she returned to Norfolk and the following month regained her office as president of the Norfolk league, holding it until October. After the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote, Cooke continued her involvement with politics, chairing the Women's Democratic Club in Newport News later in the decade.

On 3 March 1923, Cooke married Andrew Wilmer Hull, a Pennsylvania native who worked as a manager at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. They had no children and lived in Newport News for more than two decades. She belonged to the Woman's Club of Newport News and chaired its literature committee in 1926. Interested in horticulture and beautification, Elizabeth Hull was elected the founding president of the Hampton Roads Garden Club in 1932 and also served as a director of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs. In 1940 she sat on the executive council of the Associated Clubs of Virginia for Roadside Development, which had been established a few years previously to curb billboard advertisements and beautify state roads through landscaping.

In 1933 the General Assembly provided for a referendum on whether to hold a state convention to ratify the Twenty-First Amendment to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment that since 1919 had prohibited the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcoholic drink. When voters approved the convention, they elected an at-large slate of thirty delegates who favored repeal. Hull was one of seven women elected, the first women ever elected to a state convention of any kind in Virginia. On 25 October 1933, in the old House of Delegates chamber in the Capitol, they voted on behalf of the state to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment.

When the Second World War began, Hull quickly became involved in relief efforts, in part because her sister's family lived in France. In November 1939 she and a group of women began collecting clothes, medical supplies, and money to send to France and later to Britain. She headed up the women's division of Bundles for Britain, and publicly exhorted women in Newport News to aid her group or the Red Cross to mend garments, make surgical dressings, or raise money for supplies. For her war work, Hull and more than twelve hundred other American women received awards from the British government in July 1946.

About 1947 Hull's husband retired, and they moved to Washington, D.C., and also spent time at their home in Wyoming. In 1962 the governor of Virginia appointed her to the board of regents at Gunston Hall, the Fairfax County plantation of George Mason (1725–1792). Elizabeth Aymar Cooke Hull died in Montgomery County, Maryland, on 15 March 1979, and was buried beside the body of her husband, who had died on 8 February 1971, and near other Cooke family members in Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk.

Sources consulted: Self-reported birth date of 22 Feb. 1893 in passport application, 5 Nov. 1917, and self-reported birth date of 21 Feb. 1893 in emergency passport application, 2 Apr. 1919, in General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. (NARA); birth date of 21 Feb. 1893 on roster of passengers (17 Feb. 1940), S.S. Cristobal, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897–1957, Record Group 85, NARA; birth date of 22 Feb. 1893 in Social Security application, Social Security Administration, Office of Earnings Operations, Baltimore, Md; some references in Norfolk materials in Equal Suffrage League of Virginia Records, Accession 22002, Library of Virginia (LVA), Richmond; some references and a letter in Adèle Goodman Clark Papers, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Ida Husted Harper, ed., The History of Woman Suffrage (1922), 6:667; Virginian-Pilot and Norfolk Landmark, 10 Nov. 1917, 4 Mar. 1923; Marriage Register, Norfolk City, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, LVA; Journal of the Convention Called in Pursuance of an Act of the General Assembly to Ratify or Reject an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ... 1933 (1934), with portrait (also reproduced in Constitutional Convention of 1933, group photograph, Visual Studies Collection, LVA); Newport News Daily Press, 25 July 1942, 17 July 1946; death date in Bethesda, Maryland, recorded in Elmwood Cemetery Interment Register.

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