Biographical Sketch of Margaret Wilson Verner

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Margaret Wilson Verner, 1860-1949

by Sabrina Heggan, Rosemont College

Margaret Wilson Verner was born on November 16, 1860, in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, but moved to Pittsburgh as a child. Her father immigrated from Scotland and her mother was from Illinois. Wilson worked as a schoolteacher until she married Clifton Alexander Verner, a Pennsylvania merchant, on January 25, 1887. They lived in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and had three children, Alexander, Catherine, and Margaret. Clifton Verner passed away from a neck tumor in 1906, after which Verner traveled around the world, visiting such places as Belgium, Mexico, England, France, and Bermuda. She was politically active in the women's suffrage movement through local and state organizations.

On February 7, 1920, Verner appeared in The Woman Citizen, the weekly newspaper of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The newspaper showcased the important events for women, including states that had achieved full suffrage and any news that featured women. Over 500 women, including Verner, joined the Allegheny branch of the Pennsylvania League of Women Citizens at its first meeting in November 1919. Verner became chairman of the organization, which was formed to help women learn about government and to vote wisely.

When the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, the leaders of Verner's organization decided that they needed a new name to correspond with their new sense of equality and they became the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters. To celebrate the last ever convention of the NAWSA, in February 1920, 82 women went out into the streets with horns and bells; representing Pittsburgh, Verner paraded with banners and whistles. Since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters has worked to support women's informed political participation.

In addition to her involvement in the suffrage movement, Verner also participated as an auxiliary worker during WWI, and women were actively involved on both the home front and battlefield. Verner helped organize the Allegheny chapter of the Red Cross in 1914 and by July 1916 over 500 volunteers had joined. In the United States, the Red Cross ran numerous volunteer camps and relief units, and the women who signed up were eager to learn nursing skills. Both Verner and her daughter Margaret volunteered and served as auxiliary workers. They helped nurses clean wounds, dress patients, make beds, do laundry, and other tasks that did not require being licensed or fully trained to provide health care to patients. In 1919, a history of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Red Cross acknowledged Verner and her daughter's efforts.

Verner was living with her daughter in New York when she died in October 1949.

Sources:

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Fifty Years Old and Proud of It (Philadelphia: LWV Pennsylvania, 1970), p. 2.

"Miss O'Hara to Address G.O.P. Women's Meeting." The Wilkes-Barre Record, Sept. 20, 1930, p. 2, https://www.newspapers.com/image/101324005/

"Obituary." The (Canonsburg, PA) Daily Notes, Oct. 5, 1949, p. 5, https://www.newspapers.com/image/56918043/

"Mrs. C. A. Verner, Shoe Firm Executive, Dies," Pittsburgh Press, Oct. 4, 1949, p. 30, https://www.newspapers.com/image/141535825/?terms=Margaret%2BVerner

Pittsburgh Chapter, The Pittsburgh Chapter, American Red Cross: A History of the Activities of the Chapter from Its Organization to January 1, 1921 (Pittsburgh: Pittsburg Printing Company, 1922).

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