Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Helen Wilmer Venable, 1852-1923
By Kathryn Bloom, Independent Scholar
Helen Skipwith Wilmer Venable (later Mrs. E.W. or Mrs. E.C.) was born on May 30, 1852, in Philadelphia, PA and died on December 8, 1923, in Baltimore, MD. Helen was born to Helen Skipworth Wilmer, (born in Mecklenburg County, VA) and the Right Reverend Joseph Pere Bell Wilmer (born in Gloucester County, NJ), both of whom came from prominent families in Virginia. Helen was the third child of six. Her family lived in Philadelphia, where her father was the rector of St. Mark's Episcopalian Church until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 when her father retired to his estate in Virginia. The family moved again in November 1866, this time to New Orleans, when her father accepted an appointment as the second Bishop of Louisiana for the Episcopalian church.
Helen married Edward Carrington Venable, a graduate of the University of Virginia and a tobacco merchant. Together they had four children, Samuel (1878-1920), Joseph (1879-1880), Edward Carrington Venable, Jr. (1884-1936), and Helen Wilmer Venable (1886-1975). During this time, they split their residency between Baltimore, MD, and Petersburg, VA. It was also during this period when Helen's father died suddenly, on December 2, 1878. Now widowed, Helen's mother moved to the Baltimore area to live with Skipwith, Helen's older brother and a judge.
In 1886, Edward became a delegate to the Democratic State convention, and in 1889 presented credentials as a Democratic Member-elect to the Fifty-first Congress. After a short term, his election was overturned, only serving in office from March 1889 to September 1890, and he returned to his former business pursuits. Edward Sr. died in Baltimore in 1908, leaving behind a sizable sum for his wife and children. After her husband's death, Helen moved to Baltimore to live with two of her children, Samuel and Helen.
Mrs. E. C. Venable is referenced in the History of Woman Suffrage: 1900-1920 as the designer of a float in the 1915 Fall Festival parade in Huntington, WV. Additionally, her niece, Helen Skipwith Wilmer Athey was a staunch suffragist in Maryland.
Helen died in Baltimore, Maryland on December 8, 1923, survived by two of her children, Helen and Edward. Helen is interred in the Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, VA with her husband.
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