Winona Cargile Alexander

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biography of Winona Cargile Alexander, 1893-1984

By Jean Bowling, independent historian

Winona Cargile Alexander was born Winona Lucile Cargile on June 21, 1893 in Columbus, Georgia. Her parents were Sarah Frances (Fannie) Sloan Cargile and Charles H. Cargile who believed in the importance of education for their four daughters. Charles Cargile was a minister at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbus so from early childhood Winona formed a dedication to the Christian faith.

By the time Winona had reached school age, her family had moved to Macon, Georgia. In Macon, Winona attended a private college preparatory secondary school for blacks – Ballard Normal High School. There she was a student leader and popular. She graduated in 1910 as salutatorian of her class.

Following in her uncle and father's footsteps, that same year Winona started at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She would enjoy the culture of Howard and contributed by becoming Class Vice President and joining the YWCA Cabinet, Alpha Phi Literary Society, Classical Club, Social Science Club, German Club, and yearbook staff.

In her junior year at Howard, Winona and 21 of her classmates founded the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and she became its first custodian. Having observed and been the victims of Jim Crow laws and other discriminatory treatment, these women realized the importance of political activism. They were motivated to empower black women not only to achieve academically but also to bring about social change and access to equality. Just two months after DST's founding, Winona and her Sorors would join thousands of men and women in the March 3, 1913 parade for women's suffrage in Washington, D.C.

Winona graduated from Howard cum laude in 1914 with a B.A. in English. After graduation she taught high school English in Sedalia, Missouri but left in 1915 when she received a graduate fellowship to the New York School of Philanthropy. She was the first black person admitted to what is now Columbia University School of Social Work.

She completed her graduate degree in social work in 1917 and accepted a position as a social worker for New York City and New York County Charities. After she completed her obligation with New York City, she moved to Jacksonville, Florida where she became the first black Social Worker for Colored Indigents employed by the Duval County Welfare Board.

In 1917, Winona married Edward L. Alexander and they moved to

Switzerland, Florida where Edward practiced law. They had two sons, Edward L. Alexander, Jr. and James S. Alexander. Tragically four daughters died during birth.

Edward died in 1943 and Winona moved with her sons back to Jacksonville. In Jacksonville she continued her social work, taught and became an elder in the Laura Street Presbyterian Church, served on the Board of Directors of the Methodist Hospital, and volunteered with the YWCA.

Winona continued to promote the activism of Delta Sigma Theta by founding the alumnae chapter in Jacksonville (known as Alpha Iota Sigma at the time – now Jacksonville Alumnae), which awards high school graduates scholarships in her name every year. And in recognition of her contributions to the City of Jacksonville, June 9, 2018 was proclaimed Winona Cargile Alexander Memorial Day.

She died on October16, 1984 at 91 years old. The seeds she and her Sorors planted with the founding of Delta Sigma Theta on January 13, 1913 provided mentorship for thousands of black women to become leaders in political activism as well as to provide service to communities. Today there are over 900 chapters located in the United States, England, Japan (Tokyo and Okinawa), Germany, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Republic of Korea.


Jennifer Schuessler, (August15, 2019) ‘The Complex History of the Women's Suffrage Movement', New York Times

Gregory S. Parks and Marcia Hernandez, (Vol.13, No.2 – Summer2016) ‘Fortitude in the Face of Adversity: Delta Sigma Theta's History of Racial Uplift', Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal

Gregory Parks (editor), ‘Black Greek Letter Organizations in the 21st Century: Our Fight has Just Begun', Lexington Kentucky University Press of Kentucky 2008, , pp.77-78

Kimberly A. Hamlin (May 31,2019) ‘The Forgotten Suffragists', Humanities – digital publication of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Mary Walton (March 1, 2013) ‘The Day the Deltas Marched into History', The Washington Post

J. Kevin Corder and Christina Wolbrecht (August 26, 2017) ‘For Women's Equality Day, Here's the Key Question: Was Women's Suffrage a Failure?', The Washington Post

Elizabeth Cobbs (June 2, 2019) ‘What Took So Long for Women to Win the Right to Vote? Racism Is One Reason', The Washington Post

Liza Mundy (April 2019) ‘The Long Battle for Women's Suffrage', Smithsonian Magazine

Casey Cep (July 1, 2019) "The Imperfect, Unfinished Work of Women's Suffrage", The New Yorker

Southern Gazette, Vol. 2, Issue 4, p.29

James S. Alexander (Winona's son), telephone calls and e-mails

Dr. Virginia Causey, Professor Emerita, Department of History, Columbus State University, e-mails

Mark Rice, Journalist, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, e-mails and Find A

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