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Suffragette Pioneer Virginia Minor Inducted Into Hall Of Famous Missourians

Barbara Womack

There's a new member of the Hall of Famous Missourians at the State Capitol. But her story isn't as widely known to Missouri residents as other historical figures in the hall like Bob Barker, Ginger Rogers and Mark Twain.

Virginia Minor's bronze bust was unveiled Wednesday, capping a yearlong fundraising effort by statewide women's organizations to get the suffrage pioneer into the hall that honors the state's most noteworthy figures. Barbara Womack, the chair of the Missouri State Women's Political Caucus, says Minor deserves a spot on the state's A-list. After all, Womack says, Minor essentially started the movement to get women the right to vote.

"She was like the mother of the suffragette movement," she says. "All of them came after her, and it was because of her tenacity that others felt empowered."

In 1872, Minor attempted to register to vote in St. Louis, and was denied by elections officials. She sued the state and lost at the Missouri Supreme Court and ultimately at the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in 1874 that women did not have the right to vote. Even with the defeat, Womack says Minor was decades ahead of the American suffrage movement. Minor's case and her founding of the Women's Suffrage Association of Missouri were instrumental in the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

"It kind of started the whole ball going. Susan B. Anthony and all of them came after her," Womack says. 

Now, Womack says, the groups that raised the $10,000 for the bust have two new tasks. First, they have to raise another $5,000 for a display pedestal for the bust. Then, they want to want raise enough money to get another famous Missouri woman enshrined in the hall -- perhaps Maya Angelou. 

"Everybody knows Maya," Womack says. "We're very proud that she came from our state."

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