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Those women 100 years ago

They never gave up.

Those women of our families 100 years ago refused to take no for an answer.

They fought for us… and for a right way too many of us take for granted today.

Think about it. Think of the issue in terms of the people who matter most to us.

For The Legal Genealogist, it’s a woman born 122 years ago yesterday and her mother, born nearly 30 years earlier.

Opal Robertson was born 21 August 1898 in Sugarland, Texas, while her father was serving as a prison guard for the Texas prison system. Her mother, Eula (Baird) Livingston Robertson, was just a few months short of her 29th birthday when she produced this first of four children.1

So — 100 years ago this week — Opal would have just been turning 22 years old. Her mother, Eula, would have been a few months shy of her 51st birthday.

And — 100 years ago this week — the two of them, and millions of other American women, became eligible to vote for the very first time in their lives — when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment.2


Opal was my grandmother. Eula was my great grandmother.

And it’s staggering to think how recently in our human history they, and so many other women, began to be treated as thinking rational beings capable of making decisions for themselves and their families.

Proud strong capable women who had been denied that treatment for so very long.

It’s hard to imagine how they felt 100 years ago this week. When, for the first time in their lives, they could vote.

My genealogy database helps me identify dozens of family members who experienced that first-time power.

The oldest was a first cousin four times removed. Susannah C. (Young) Blalock was born in Yancey County, North Carolina, on the ninth of April 1836, the daughter of Reuben and Sophia (Baker) Young.3 Her mother was the youngest sister of my third great grandfather Martin Baker.4 Susannah died in Mitchell County, North Carolina, on the 11th of November 1929 at the age of 93,5 and was buried at the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Ledger.6

My grandmother was the youngest.

In between — four of my grandfather’s sisters: : Nettie (Cottrell) Holley, born 1879;7 Theo (Cottrell) Hodges Dean, born 1885;8 and Addie Lee (Cottrell) Harris, born 1881.9 The one who didn’t get the right to vote had married a non-citizen in 1912. Maud (Cottrell) Gottlieb couldn’t vote until she got her citizenship back by through naturalization in 1939.10

Two of my grandfather’s aunts — Mary (Cottrell) Green, born 1856,11 and Margaret “Arby” (Cottrell) Hollis McCann, born 186312 — were living and eligible to vote when the 19th amendment passed, as well as a whole ration of my grandmother’s aunts:

On her father’s side, Martha Wilmoth (Robertson) Crenshaw, born 1854;13 Mary Isabella (Robertson) Hendrix, born 1863;14 Fannie Boone (Robertson) Harrison, born 1865;15 and Lillie (Robertson) Wilson, born 1868.16

On her mother’s side, Lula (Livingston) Lancaster, born 1877;17 Margaret Etta (Livingston) Roberts, born 1880;18 and Susie (Livingston) Kidwell, born 1889.19

All of them, and so many more, finally — finally — given the right to vote.

They had that right for the election of 1920 when Republican Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio defeated Democratic Governor James M. Cox of Ohio. And in 1924 when Calvin Collidge defeated Democrat John Davis and Progressive Robert M. La Follette.

And on to today when their daughters and granddaughters and great granddaughters can vote in the election of 2020.

What a precious heritage — what an amazing legacy — what a privilege and a right we have.

Thanks to the women who came before.

And who never gave up.

Who never quit fighting.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “They never gave up,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 22 Aug 2020).


  1. For Opal, see Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 95-011808, Opal Robertson Cottrell (1995); Division of Vital Records, Richmond. For Eula, see Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 6367, Eula Robertson (1954); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Richmond.
  2. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Doing as he was told,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 18 Aug 2020 ( : accessed 22 Aug 2020).
  3. North Carolina State Board of Health, Death Certif. No. 163, Susan C. Blalock, Mitchell County, 11 Nov 1929; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Raleigh. Her death certificate says she was born in Mitchell County; that county wasn’t created until 1861.
  4. Josiah and Julia (McGimsey) Baker Family Bible Records 1749-1912, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (New York : American Bible Society, 1867), “Births”; privately held by Louise (Baker) Ferguson, Bakersville, NC; photographed for JG Russell, Feb 2003. Mrs. Ferguson, a great granddaughter of Josiah and Julia, inherited the Bible; the earliest entries are believed to be in the handwriting of Josiah or Julia Baker.
  5. N.C. State Bd. of Health, Death Certif. No. 163, Susan C. Blalock
  6. Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, Mitchell County, NC, Susan C. Blalock marker; digital image, Find A Grave ( : accessed 17 August 2018).
  7. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell. See also Dutton Funeral Home (Iowa Park, Texas), Record of Funeral, Baby Cottrell, 22 February 1918; digital copy privately held by Judy G. Russell.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. See Judy G. Russell, “Becoming unAmerican,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 16 Sep 2017.
  11. Texas Department of Health, death certif. no. 32464, Mary E. Green, 12 July 1946; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  12. Texas Dept. of Health, death certif. no. 20306, Margaret Arvy McCann, 13 Apr 1944.
  13. Texas Dept. of Health, death certif. no. 1583, Mrs. Mattie Crenshaw, 26 Jan 1922.
  14. Colorado State Registrar, Death Certif. No. 2203, Mary Isabella Hendrix, 5 Mar 1950.
  15. See 1870 U.S. census, Lamar County, TX, population schedule, Paris Post Office, p. 253(B) (stamped), dwelling 307, family 307, “Gustavis” B. Robertson household; digital image, ( : accessed 9 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication M593, roll 1594.
  16. Texas Dept. of Health, death certif. no. 9581, Lily Wilson, 13 Feb 1956.
  17. Tombstone, Lula Lancaster, Frederick City Cemetery, Frederick OK, photographed by author, 2002.
  18. Tombstone, Etta Roberts, Frederick City Cemetery, Frederick OK, photographed by author, 2002.
  19. Tombstone, Susie Kidwell, Frederick City Cemetery, Frederick OK, photographed by author, 2002.
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