January 11, 1886 – June 15, 1929
Virginia Brooks was a suffragist and political reformer who worked in the Chicago Region and throughout Indiana in the early 1900’s.
Brooks and her mother moved to West Hammond (Calumet City IL) after her father died, probably around 1910. She fought against vices, including bars, prostitution, and gambling in West Hammond, which crossed over the state borderline of State Line Avenue into Hammond, Indiana.
Virginia Brooks was internationally known and began a settlement house in 1911 on State Line and Rimbach in Hammond, to serve West Hammond (Calumet City) and Hammond. It featured an employment agency, night classes, day nursery, lectures and more.
In 1912, Brooks was the principal speaker at the state convention of the Equal Suffrage League in Indianapolis and she also spoke about her crusade for reform in Richmond, Indiana.
Well-known Illinois suffragist Ida B. Wells, one of the founders of the Alpha Suffrage Club, was at theWashington D.C. Suffrage parade on March 5, 1913. Because Wells was African-American, she was not allowed to march with the Illinois delegation. All African-American participants were to march at the end of the parade. Not wanting to cause a scene, Wells backed off and stood on the sidelines of the parade route. When the Illinois delegation marched past, Wells came out of the crowd, was pulled in and protected by Brooks and Belle Squire, also founders of the Alpha Suffrage Club, and marched with the suffragists of Illinois. This was Brooks’ last public appearance.
Brooks was married in 1913 and divorced in 1915. Later she moved to Oregon with her mother and son, Walter, known as Brooks. She died at the age of 43 in 1929 in Oregon.
For her short time of suffrage and anti-vice activities, which was only about three years, Virginia Brooks accomplished much. We are grateful for her activism in helping women get the right to vote.
This is a monthly feature. Sue Webster will be coordinating highlighting suffragists throughout the state.