Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Verna Meyer(s), 1893-1982

By Tracy Morse, History Undergraduate, University of California, San Diego

Verna Izetta Wood was born October 31, 1893, in Beadle County, South Dakota, to Anna Kreger (aka Anna Morrill - 1875-1940) and William H. Wood, (1890-1961). Her parents divorced and later her mother remarried, adding a half-sister and four half-brothers to her family. At the age of sixteen, Verna left school and moved away from home to take a job as a sales girl for a news store, while lodging at another family's home. After Verna returned to college for four years, she briefly married twenty-two-year-old John Clare Ryckman on May 8, 1911, in Spink, South Dakota, at the age of eighteen. At the age of twenty-one, Verna divorced John and fell in love with twenty-five-year-old Frank Wolfgang Meyer, who was born in Wisconsin in 1891. They married on May 2, 1915, at Redfield, South Dakota. Verna was listed as Episcopalian, like her mother, while Frank was a Congregationalist. Frank, a telegraph operator for Western Union Telegraph Company, was a tall, college-educated, slender man with dark brown eyes, and brown hair.

Soon after getting married, Verna's suffrage activity began when she became involved with women's rights and the 1918 campaign to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution to allow women to vote. She and her husband lived in Huron in Beadle County, as Meyer worked as a secretary and stenographer for Mamie Pyle, at the South Dakota Universal Franchise League's (U.F.L.) Huron headquarters. Her hard work and dedication were noted in many books and newspapers. Meyer was described as follows, "As much as any other one person Mrs. Frank Meyer, office secretary, contributed to the success of the campaign. Absolutely reliable, absolutely untiring, she kept everything moving for everybody." Dorinda Riessen similarly acknowledged Verna and other South Dakota suffragists for their work with the National American Woman Suffrage Association in her book, The Women's Suffrage Movement in South Dakota. The local women were persistent, Riessen said, and would not have been able to win the campaign without "Mrs. Frank Meyer, Office Secretary," whose help was also invaluable. The Federal Suffrage Amendment of 1919 was ratified in 1920, and was one more step towards women's long-time fight for political equality.

After the 19th Amendment was ratified, Verna worked for Maul Insurance Agency, while her husband worked as a Train Depot Agent for the Chicago and Northwestern (C&NW) Railway. In 1928, Verna and Frank had their first son, David F. Meyers. By 1930, Verna was listed as a housewife on the U.S. census. In 1940, the family moved to Brown County, South Dakota so that Frank could work full-time as a depot agent for the C&NW Railway. They remained there for more than 2 years. In 1952, at the age of 59, Verna and her husband both worked at the C&NW Railway. Verna worked as an Accounting Relief Agent in Hitchcock, South Dakota. A year or two later, they moved to Lompoc, California.

During her senior years, Verna enjoyed gardening and remained active in charitable women's groups and activities, even entering gardening competitions. In 1954, Verna was featured as one of the ladies attending the meeting of the Garden Section of the Lompoc Community Women's Club discussing bulb planting. In 1974, Verna was still active in women's groups, including the Lompoc Grange. The Lompoc Community Women's Club featured her in 1975 as part of their annual holiday bazaar. Verna lived in Pomona, CA then. In 1977, at the age of eighty-three, she was still enjoying gardening and entering competitions. Two years later, Verna was still active with the Grange CWA.

Verna died March 13, 1982, in Sacramento, CA at the age of eighty-eight. She was buried at the Houghton Cemetery in Houghton, Brown County, South Dakota.

Sources:

Book Chapter-eBook

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Chapter XL: South Dakota" in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. 598-608. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]

McMahon, Mrs. Albert. "How to Win a State." in The Woman Citizen, Volume 3." 508-509,New York: Leslie Woman Suffrage Commission. Jan. 1918. https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=KtMRAQAAMAAJ&rdid=book-KtMRAQAAMAAJ&rdot=1.

Riessen-Reed, Dorinda. The Woman Suffrage Movement in South Dakota. 119. United States: South Dakota Commission on the Status of Women, 1975. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Woman_Suffrage_Movement_in_South_Dak/EEmHAAAAMAAJ?hl=en.

Census Records

1900 United States Federal Census, Provo, Utah, digital image s.v. "Frank Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/63273491:7602?ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519404.

1910 United State Federal Census, Lehi, Utah, digital image s.v. "Verna I. Wood," Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/26932779:7884?ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403.

1920 United States Federal Census, Provo, Utah, digital image s.v. "Verna Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/69442537:6061?ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403.

South Dakota, U.S., State Census, 1925, s.v. "Verna I Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60161&h=174942&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403&usePUB=true.

1930 United States Federal Census, Provo, Utah, digital image s.v. "Verna I. Myers," Ancestry.com.https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4548133_00168?pId=110943067.

1940 United States Federal Census, Provo, Utah, digital image s.v. "Verna I. Myers," Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-03847-00350?ssrc=pt&treeid=175877295&personid=312278519403&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true&pId=109811188.

Grave Markers

Verna Izetta Wood Meyer , grave marker, Houghton Cemetery, Houghton, Brown County, South Dakota, digital image s.v. "Verna Izetta Wood Meyer," Findagrave.com. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/186892628/verna-izetta-meyer.

Indexes and databases within a commercial site

"California, United States Social Security Death Index, 1940-1997," s.v. "Verna Izetta Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=5180&h=4977958&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403&usePUB=true.

"South Dakota, U.S. Birth Index, 1856-1917," s.v. "Verna I. Wood" (born 31 October 1893), Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=6996&h=65346&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403&usePUB=true.

"United States Chicago & North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970" digital image s.v. "Verna I. Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6944/images/42035_520307001_0153-00420?pId=58832.

"United States Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014," s.v. "Verna Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3693&h=42012484&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403&usePUB=true.

"United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital image s.v. "Frank W. Meyer," Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=6482&h=9910800&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519404&usePUB=true.

Newspaper Article -- Online Source

"Garden Section of Women's Club Hears Talk on Bulbs." The Lompoc Record. October 21, 1954. Newspapers.com. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/image/540682033/?terms=Verna%20Meyers&match=1.

"Local Happenings." The Saturday News, Watertown SD. April 18, 1918. Newspapers.com. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn2001063549/1918-04-18/ed-1/seq-5/#date1=1789&index=9&rows=20&words=John+Mrs+Pyle&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=South+Dakota&date2=1963&proxtext=mrs.+john+pyle&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2.

"Photograph - Checking Items." The Lompoc Record. November 20, 1975. Newspapers.com. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76165612/verna-meyer-the-lompoc-record/?xid=637.

"Reta Skelly." Sacramento Bee. June 4, 1970 - https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76166018/sacramento-bee-june-4-1970-verna/?xid=637&_ga=2.202730065.1786420243.1619647441-1781785708.1614290976. Accessed April 28, 2021. Newspapers.com.

"Santa visits Grange during Christmas Party." The Lompoc Record. December 17, 1974. Newspapers.com. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/image/540705182/?terms=Verna%20Meyers&match=1.

"Specimen winners are announced." The Lompoc Record. June 25, 1977. Newspapers.com. Accessed April 30, 2021. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76803642/verna-enjoyed-gardening-competitions-in/?xid=637..

Online Website

Almie, Liz. "History in South Dakota." Biographies of Women's Suffrage -- M. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://historysouthdakota.wordpress.com/womens-suffrage-in-sodak/biographies-of-womens-suffrage-m/.

Personal Correspondence

"Mamie Shields Pyle Correspondence, 1918, October 12-16." Digital Library of South Dakota. RA11267-RA11371. Accessed May 2, 2021. https://explore.digitalsd.org/digital/collection/richardson/id/6958/rec/16.

"Mamie Shields Pyle Correspondence, 1918, December." Digital Library of South Dakota. RA12071-RA12073, Accessed May 2, 2021. https://explore.digitalsd.org/digital/collection/richardson/id/7695.

Vital Records

"South Dakota Marriage Records, 1905-2016," digital image s.v. "Verna I. Rickman," Ancestry.com. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=8561&h=7984&ssrc=pt&tid=175877295&pid=312278519403&usePUB=true

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