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When the People of the United States adopted the Nineteenth Amendment and declared that neither the United States nor any State can deny or abridge the right to vote on of sex, they clearly established as a principle of our government that women should be allowed to vote on the same conditions as men.
Judge Albert Levitt, U. District Court for the Virgin Islands, December 27, Virgin Islands St. Thomas Daily News. Although the Danish West Indies came under control of the United States inthe men and women on the islands were not granted U. It was from there that a pathway opened for all women on St. Thomas to obtain the right to vote, pursued by a group of politically and socially active women.
The U. Virgin Islands constitute three main islands—St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John—and dozens of smaller islands. Located in the Caribbean about 1, miles southeast of Miami, the islands were of strategic value to the United States government. Since the s, U. Both the U. As a Danish possession sincethe Virgin Islanders experienced one of the harshest slave systems in the world, and after emancipation the colony was neglected.
The Danes did not address the economic and Women of the virgin islands well being of the islanders. When the U. S purchased the islands, they consisted of a majority Black population, descendants of enslaved persons, and a mix of descendants of Danish, Scottish, Spanish, and Portuguese origin as well.
Newly constituting the easternmost point of U. The islands were governed by an all-white Navy as acting authority until The period under the Navy — was marked with continued indifference and an injection of racism in the already impoverished islands. Questions about constitutional rights began almost immediately, and in a Federal court case confirmed that Danish Law prevailed over the U. In Navy rule ended, and a civilian government was established.
President Herbert Hoover made the transfer effective by ing an executive order on February 27, InCongress granted U. Ina group of teachers established the St. Thomas Teachers Association. The association was founded by Edith Williams. Known as the Mother of Education for her lifelong commitment to students in St. Thomas, Williams had already established a network of working women to improve conditions for students and teachers when she created the association.
Another politically active St. Thomas woman and entrepreneur was Ella Gifft. Gifft was integral to the efforts to secure the vote and began to encourage women to seek enfranchisement, citing the passage of the 19th Amendment and that they were now U. On December 29,Gifft established the Suffragist League, including Edith Williams as one of the founding members. A real opportunity to push for the vote arrived when Federal Judge Albert Levitt was appointed to St. Thomas District Court in In DecemberEdith Williams was the first woman to apply to become a registered voter, and within a week, 23 more women did the same.
The St. Many of these women held full-time jobs as teachers and owned homes, but they were denied because of their gender. Through Elsie Hill, they acquired a lawyer, and three women were chosen to file a petition for a writ of mandamus, or a court order, to be added as voters.
Edith Williams, Anna M. Vessup, and Eulalie Stevens submitted their petition on December 24, Eulalie Stevens was born in New York City and migrated to the islands in the s. She had already witnessed success in seeing women secure the right to vote in New York in Thomas…be commanded to register and place upon the voting list the names of Edith Williams, Anna M. Vessup, and Eulalie Stevens who are herewith adjudged to be duly and properly qualified voters. Thomas electoral board appealed the judgment, but they were unsuccessful in keeping the women of St. Thomas off of the voting rolls. Members of the electoral board were required to add them back and submit court-ordered documentation.
On May 29,the electoral board submitted a record showing a list of women added to the voter rolls, thereby securing full voting rights for the women of St. The ruling in St. Thomas inspired the women of St. John and St. Croix to challenge their electoral boards. Background The U.
Etching by F. John, U. Treaty for the Purchase of the Virgin Islands, Jan 16, NAID As a Danish possession sincethe Virgin Islanders experienced one of the harshest slave systems in the world, and after emancipation the colony was neglected. Teachers Organize for the Vote Ina group of teachers established the St. Share this: Twitter Facebook.
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