By Wendy E. Harris, Volunteer Associate Archivist
The headline to a story appearing in the June 8, 1913 edition of The Washington Post read: “Washington Grove Elects” and beneath it “Three Progressives Are Given Places on the Colony’s Board of Trustees.” Among them was Amelia Elmore Huntley, nearly seventy years old, highly educated, an official of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society, and the widow of a very prominent Washington D.C. clergyman. For our purposes, however, the most significant thing about Huntley was that she was the first of her gender to be elected to the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association’s Board of Trustees. The precedent was noted in the article as follows:
“[T]his was the first time during the forty years’ history of Washington Grove that a woman has held such a position, and marks a new policy in the affairs of the colony.”
The Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association had been incorporated under Maryland law in 1874. In accordance with the Association’s bylaws, all stockholders, male and female, were entitled to vote for officers during the annual meeting of the Association’s stockholders. Lists of stockholders appear among the Board of Trustees’ meetings minutes, most of which are stored in the Town Archives. An examination of the lists for the years 1904 to 1912 indicates that not only were most stockholders either current or former camp meeting attendees but that also many were women. Although we don’t know exactly which of the Board of Trustees candidates these women supported at the 1913 meeting, one would hope that a significant number of them voted for Huntley.
We should also note that in the very act of voting for an official to represent them in the Association’s government, Washington Grove’s women were ahead of their time. It took until 1920 for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be ratified, granting women the right to vote. Surprisingly (at least to me), Maryland was among the handful of states voting against the amendmentfinally ratifying it in 1941. Today, in the summer of 2016, for the first time since the nation’s founding two and half centuries ago, a major political party has selected a woman as their presidential nominee. In the light of all this, Huntley’s election and her role in Association politics deserve greater attention.
Much of what I have been able to learn about Huntley’s early life comes from sources other than the Town archives. My very first clue, however, emerged across the street, among historic documents belonging to the Washington Grove United Methodist Church. There I found paperwork that in addition to identifying Huntley as a member of that congregation also gave me her maiden name and the dates of her birth and death. With this information I was able to begin an internet search. Many interesting details appeared online at sources including the following: the website of the American History and Genealogy Project (Women of America); Family Search; Find-A-Grave; and various digitized versions of Women’s Foreign Missionary Society publications. In upcoming articles in this series, I will be sharing this information along with the story of Huntley’s career as the first female board member of the Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association.
Sources: The Washington Post (1877-1922), June 8, 1913,ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “Charter By-Laws and Regulations of the Washington Grove Association 1909;” Collection of the Town of Washington Grove Archives; Washington Grove Camp Meeting Association Board of Trustees; National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, Library of Congress; and the Maryland Commission on the Commemoration of the Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.