Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Florence Jessie Grove Manley, 1858-1940
By Levi T. Huff, BS
Graduate Assistant, Leadership Studies Program
West Virginia University
Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Ed.D.
Professor and Director, Leadership Studies Program
Harriet E. Lyon Professor of Women's and Gender Studies
West Virginia University
First President of the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association, 1895-1897
Florence Jessie Grove was born on 23 October 1858 in Mount Airy, Maryland. Jessie attended West Virginia College in Flemington, West Virginia and proceeded to finish her education at the State Normal School in Fairmont, West Virginia (now Fairmont State University) in June 1877. She was a teacher in the Fairmont area for three years until marrying Charles E. Manley. Upon marriage, Jessie became assistant clerk of Marion County, WV when her husband became county clerk. The couple enjoyed raising thoroughbred Jersey and Durham cattle in their spare time.
When the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association was formed in 1895, Jessie was elected its first president. Jessie had begun her work in political activism during her time as the assistant clerk of Marion County. Jessie attended the National American Woman Suffrage Association
(NAWSA) Convention in Washington, DC in 1896, along with four other members from West Virginia. Jessie submitted a report describing the effects of the suffrage movement in West Virginia and noted that nine new clubs were formed in 1895, showing growth of the movement. Jessie reported, "We have nothing at present in sight in our State to look forward to except the education of the minds of the people in this cause." She also vowed to keep the clubs interested and working on the movement, despite the long road ahead of them. Jessie also was one of the few women who addressed the United States House Judiciary Committee on the topic of equal rights during the convention.
During Jessie's tenure as president, many challenges were faced by the local chapters in West Virginia, including the lack of funding for transportation of speakers and organizers. Keeping the women active in the movement was essential to Jessie's platform as president. It was recalled that Jessie often opened her well-kept and elegant home to those traveling throughout the state trying to help organize the movement.
In 1897, Jessie stepped down from the role of president, refusing re-election despite the desire of the association. Jessie cited that the "press of business" was her reason for stepping down and she fully supported the election of Fanny Wheat of Wheeling, West Virginia to be her successor. Jessie moved into the role of State press correspondent, where she found success in getting pro-suffrage articles published in prominent West Virginia newspapers.
Jessie attended the NAWSA conference again in 1900 as a delegate. She was prominent in all the work thereafter until the ratification of the 19th Amendment by the West Virginia legislature in 1920. Jessie remained an advocate for women's rights until her death in 1940.
Blackwell, Alice S, and Harriet T Upton, editors. Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Frank W. Perry Press, 1902.
Effland, Anne Wallace. The Woman Suffrage Movement in West Virginia, 1867-1920. West Virginia University, 1983.
Redman, Steven. "The Ancestors and Family of Steven Harn Redman." Ellen Dorcas Harn Manuscript, https://steveredman.com/ellenharnmanuscript2.htm#_Toc124670937.
Stanley, Daphne. "Biographical Sketch of Anne M. Manley Southern." Biographical Sketch of Anne M. Manley Southern | Alexander Street Documents, https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/d/1009932356.