Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Flora Annah Williams, 1863-1962
By Caden Moran, Noah Proctor, Harleigh Wiesenbach, Abbey Anderson, Ashylynn Gulakowski, Undergraduate students, California University of Pennsylvania
Flora Annah Williams, known as both Miss Flora Williams and Mrs. Flora Williams, was born on December 17, 1863 to Samuel B. and Ruth Anna Williams in Wheeling, West Virginia. She had one younger brother, Mortimer. A Quaker, belonging to the Society of Friends, she worked as a music teacher and vocal instructor. On September 18, 1889, in Belmont, Ohio, she married Walter Lowry Williams ironically changing her name from Miss Flora Williams to Mrs. Flora Williams. Walter, who was a telegraph operator, was born in 1856 to Lewis and Caroline Williams. His father died when Walter was young, and his mother married a teacher named Daniel Williams by 1860. After their marriage in 1889, Flora and Walter Williams lived in a house in Washington, Ohio County, West Virginia.
As well as teaching music, Williams performed as a soprano and soloist and directed many musical programs in her lifetime. Her career as a soprano soloist and vocal instructor dominated much of her life. She was the director of the Wheeling Centennial Chorus, though the amount of time she held this position is unknown. Williams was a member of the Mozart Singing Society and sang with them in honor of the opening of Mozart Park and Incline, as reported by the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer on October 15, 1893. She was also a soloist and sang the "beautiful soprano solo 'Auf Wiedersche' in such a manner that she was compelled to respond with an encore" ("Mozart Opened"). On June 14, 1900, she performed at the Casino at Wheeling Park, Wheeling's first public park. According to the Wheeling Register Williams performed a musical collection entitled "Spring Is Come" at the formation of the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs. She was a choir director at the First Presbyterian Church and was a member of three additional musical organizations: the Thursday Music Club (as an honorary member), the Woman's Club of Wheeling (also known as the Woman's Music Club), and the Republican Women's chorus.
Williams also used her time and voice to support a few suffragist clubs. In 1916 she became the president of the Woman's Municipal League. She was also part of the pro-suffrage "flying squadron" of speakers. Their job was to tour the state in the final months of the women's suffrage campaign to support the suffragist vote. The squadron itself was mostly dominated by men included attorneys, judges, and political or religious leaders, but there were a few female speakers as well, including Williams, who spoke up with personal anecdotes advocating for local change. Most of the time, these gatherings were not in front of huge crowds or fully organized. They were not always initiated by suffrage organizations, rather, these people traveled and spoke to advocate for women's rights to anyone who would listen, whether that be in a small town or in front of powerful politicians. Williams had a long life with only a portion being spent as a suffrage advocate, and later as a Republican activist.
Williams had no descendants beyond one niece and three nephews. She travelled extensively with her husband before his death on November 17, 1929 at age 73. She did not remarry. Flora Williams died at age 98 on July 23, 1962. She passed in St. Petersburg, Florida at a restorium. Both Williamses are buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling, West Virginia.
1900 U.S. Census, Wheeling Ward 1, Ohio, West Virginia, p. 4B, Enumeration District 138. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
1920 U.S. Census, Wheeling Ward 1, Ohio, West Virginia, p. 3A, Enumeration District 74. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
"Breezy Music, Mozart Singing Society's Annual May Festival Held To-day[sic] at Mozart Park." Wheeling daily intelligencer. May 5, 1898, 5. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026844/1898-05-05/ed-1/seq-5/.
Effland, Anne Wallace. "The Woman Suffrage Movement in West Virginia, 1867-1920." PhD diss. West Virginia University, 1983, pp. 51-52. https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/etd/7361/
Flora A. Williams. Belmont County, Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993. Digital Images. Ancestry.com.
"History of Wheeling Park." Wheeling Park. Accessed October 14, 2020. https://oglebay.com/wheeling-park/history.
Hoge, Florence. "Miss Florence Hoge Tells of the Forming of Suffrage Organizations in Ohio County." Wheeling Intelligencer, May 1, 1916, Quoted in Formation of the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs, West Virginia Archives & History, 2019. http://wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffragewheelinggroup.html.
Hughes Song Recital Wheeling Park. Digital Library of Appalachia. Wheeling Jesuit University Special Collections, http://dla.acaweb.org/digital/collection/wju/id/129/.
"Mozart Opened. Exercises Under Direction of Singing Society." Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Oct. 26, 1893, 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/data/batches/wvu_denmark_ver01/data/sn84026844/00202193602/1893102601/0384.pdf.
Souvenir Program and History Wheeling Centennial 1836-1936. https://ohiocountylibrary.org/docs/5e_WghCentennialprogram1936003.PDF.
"Williams Service Set for Saturday." Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), July 25, 1962, 2.
"Women's Clubs Formed State Federation Yesterday Was Taken Up With Several Important Discussions, and Officers Were Elected, Executive Board To Meet." Wheeling Register, April 23, 1904, Quoted in Formation of the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs, West Virginia Archives & History, 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/history/women/womensclubs02.html.