Lizzie Fentress Stanard

 

Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Lizzie Fentress Stanard, 1871-1946

By Anne M. Boylan, University of Delaware

Voting Rights Advocate, Businesswoman

Born in Richmond, Virginia, on May 13, 1871, Lizzie Fentress was the daughter of George Fentress, listed in the 1880 census as a laborer, and Elizabeth Burwell Fentress, a washerwoman. In the 1900 census, her mother listed her occupation as "nurse." Both parents, who married in 1865, appear to have been Virginia natives, although the 1900 census placed Elizabeth Fentress's birthplace in North Carolina. During their marriage, Elizabeth bore twelve children, six of whom were still living in 1900. Lizzie acquired at least an eighth grade education; an 1893 newspaper article placed her on her school's honor roll.

The 1900 Richmond census captured the extended household on Henry Street in which Lizzie Fentress Stanard and her husband Edward lived (they married in 1893). In addition to the Stanards and their six-year-old son Edward, Jr., the household contained Lizzie's parents, and her sister Helen Fentress Hayden, born in 1874 and married to Solomon L. Hayden in 1895. Helen was already a widow with a four-year-old son, George B. Hayden. Edward Stanard was a waiter, Lizzie was a clerk, and Helen a public school teacher. Edward later had a long career as bailiff at Richmond's U.S. Court.

Although before her marriage Lizzie Stanard had taught at the St. Philip's Episcopal Church school, most of her career was spent as a clerk, then secretary, then Grand Worthy Secretary of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, a mutual benefit insurance company based in Richmond. Like the Independent Order of St. Luke, best known for the leadership of Maggie Lena Walker, the True Reformers was one of a number of fraternal societies offering sickness and death benefits to members. More importantly, such organizations provided the foundation for creating independent Black businesses and cultivated leadership opportunities for Black businesswomen and men. The True Reformers eventually owned a meeting hall, opened a savings bank, and operated a newspaper, The Reformer. The organization held a place in the civic life of Richmond beyond its economic role. When the city instituted an ordinance

requiring racial segregation on its streetcars, Black Richmonders organized a 1904 boycott at a mass meeting held at True Reformers Hall.

That combination of economic striving and political activism was a theme in Lizzie Stanard's life. In 1920, she was secretary of the Richmond branch of the NAACP, and attended the group's annual conference in Atlanta. In February 1921, NAACP field secretary Addie Hunton organized a delegation of Black women, led by Mary Church Terrell, to press the National Woman's Party (NWP) to seek congressional action on the non-enforcement of the 19th Amendment for Black women. Virginians Lizzie Stanard and Ora Brown Stokes travelled from Richmond to Washington, D.C. in order to participate in the event. The response of NWP president, Alice Paul, however, was "thoroughly hostile," as Addie Hunton recorded it, and a motion to support the Black delegation's concerns failed.

Lizzie Stanard remained active in the Richmond NAACP. In 1922, she presided at a meeting at which the main speaker gave a "ringing address on the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill" and she served on the group's executive committee with Maggie Lena Walker. In 1923, she sent information on schooling issues to the NAACP's Executive Secretary, Mary White Ovington. But because she was "exceedingly busy" with the demands of her "business position with the True Reformers," as NAACP Director of Branches Robert Bagnall wrote in 1922, and because her husband was ill, she stepped back from active involvement. Edward L. Stanard died of a stroke on February 17, 1924,

For decades, Lizzie Stanard served at her post as Grand Secretary-Treasurer of the True Reformers, travelling to cities such as Pittsburgh on the organization's behalf. During the Second World War, she was one of the "Negro chairmen" for Richmond's air raid planning, doing house-to-house visits to promote civil defense preparation; she also chaired a community committee raising funds for defense bonds. At her death in Richmond on October 19, 1946, she was lauded as "an ardent church worker" for St. Philip's Episcopal Church and its affiliated St. Peter's Mission. After a well-attended funeral at St. Philip's Church, Lizzie Stanard was buried in Richmond's Woodland Cemetery, where her husband had been laid to rest. She was survived by her son, Edward, Jr., who was living in Queens, New York.

Sources: Basic information about the Fentress and Stanard families can be found in censuses and vital records available on Ancestry.com, familysearch.org, and in local Richmond newspapers. Note that a transcriber rendered Edward L. Stanard's name on his 1924 death certificate as "Stanauch."

Two obituaries appeared in Virginia newspapers; see: "Impressive Rites Held for Mrs. L.L. Stanard," [Norfolk] New Journal and Guide, November 2, 1946, p. B13; and "Richmond Civic Leader Buried," [Norfolk] New Journal and Guide, October 26, 1946, p. A10.

Information on Lizzie Stanard's career and civic activism can be found in the following sources:

W. P. Burrell, Twenty-Five Years History of The Grand Fountain of The United Order of True Reformers, 1881-1905 (Richmond: n.p., 1909).

NAACP Papers: Addie Hunton's 1921 report and Robert Bagnall's 1922 report can be found in the The NAACP Papers, microfilm edition, Part 12, Selected Branch Files, 1913-1939, The South; and Part 4, Voting Rights Cases. Lizzie Stanard's 1923 letter to NAACP Executive Secretary Mary White Ovington is in the organization's Administrative Files.

Directory of the Branch Presidents and Secretaries of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP, 1920), p. 23.

The following newspaper articles include useful details on Lizzie Stanard's education and career:

"Colored Schools," Norfolk Virginian, June 29, 1893.

"True Reformers Hold Annual Meeting," Richmond Planet, September 20, 1919.

"Tag Day Receipts Swell to $1007.76," Richmond Planet, November 22, 1919.

"Local N.A.A.C.P. Held Big Meeting at Bethel," Richmond Planet, April 22, 1922.

"N.A.A.C.P. Membership Drive," Richmond Planet, June 17, 1922.

"True Reformers Putting Order in Good Condition," New Journal and Guide, October 18, 1924.

"Pittsburgh, Pa.," New York Age, May 14, 1927.

"True Reformers Meet in Annual Session," Washington Tribune, September 21, 1933.

"4,000 to Aid City's Plans for Air Raid," Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 23, 1941.

"31 Meetings Scheduled for Defense Bond Workers," Richmond News-Leader, March 27, 1942.

For Lizzie Stanard's attendance at the 1921 voting rights protest and her work with the NAACP, see "Washington Letter," New York Age, February 19, 1921, and (noted above) Addie Hunton's and Robert Bagnall's reports from Virginia, found in the NAACP Papers.

Photo from W. P. Burrell, Twenty-Five Years History of The Grand Fountain of The United Order of True Reformers (Richmond: n.p., 1909). Lizzie Stanard is first row, fourth from left.

These secondary works offer important information and context for Lizzie Stanard's activism:

Brent Tarter, Marianne E. Julienne, and Barbara C. Batson, The Campaign for Woman Suffrage in Virginia (Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, 2020), pp. 134-42.

Shennette Garrett-Scott, Banking on Freedom: Black Women in U.S. Finance Before the New Deal (New York: Columbia University Press, 2019).

Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (New York: William Morrow, 1984).

August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, "Negro Boycotts of Segregated Streetcars in Virginia, 1904-1907," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 81:4 (1973): 479-87.

 

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