Melvina Whitney Woods


Melvina Caroline Blanche Whitney was born in 1850 on August 18th in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her father, Newel K. Whitney, was a prominent church leader and her mother, Emmeline Blanche Woodward Whitney (aka Emmeline B. Wells), was a renowned suffrage activist. At seventeen, Melvina married a young, British, immigrant and together they had two daughters and a son. Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted five years due to the husband's alcoholism. At twenty-four, in 1874, she married again and had another daughter and son; of her five children, only two daughters survived to adulthood.

In 1888, the family moved to northern Idaho, first living in Murray and later Wallace. Melvina’s husband, Major William W. Woods, became a prominent attorney and later judge. Melvina was said to have a gift of organizing, a gift she put to use when the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) sent a representative, Emma Smith DeVoe, to speak on suffrage in Idaho in 1895. She organized all of DeVoe's gatherings in northern Idaho, including a gathering at her own club in Wallace, which she was president of. That same year the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association was organized in Boise with Melvina as vice-president.

Salt Lake City, Utah in 1850. From American Pictures Drawn With Pen And Pencil by Rev Samuel Manning circa 1880. Accessed 2 Sep 2020.
Woods02: Settlement of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ in Salt Lake City, Utah. 1850. Wood engraving, American, 1870. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 2 Sep 2020.

Melvina and her husband worked hard to obtain support for the equal suffrage amendment. They went to conventions, spoke, and gathered support wherever they went. In 1897 Melvina was the only Idaho suffragist to attend the NAWSA convention held in Iowa as a celebration of Idaho’s suffrage victory. While she was there, she found her mother, Emmeline B. Wells, also in attendance. The convention recognized Emmeline Wells as someone who did more than any other to gain women’s suffrage in Utah. Emmeline and her daughter Melvina both sat on the stand with Susan B. Anthony during the meetings and were given opportunities to address the convention.


Works Cited


Biographical Sketch of Melvina Caroline Blanche Whitney Dunford Woods, written by Patricia Lyn Scott. Included in Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920.