Category Archives: Events

Archives Exhibit Supports DNCR Initiative: “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers”

[This blog post was written by Donna E. Kelly, Head of Special Collections.]

The State Archives of North Carolina has put together a display of 10 archival documents and other items relating to women’s suffrage, including the original copy of the Nineteenth Amendment sent to North Carolina for ratification in June of 1919. Usually housed in the vault, this document (along with anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage propaganda, hand-held fans, facsimiles of legislation and political cartoons, and a suffragist’s sash) will be traveling around the state from August 22, 2019 through November of 2020.

Political cartoon from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives of North Carolina.

The exhibit, titled “An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina, consists of three panels: “Early Efforts Supporting Suffrage for Women,” “Post-War Opposition to Suffrage for Women,” and “Suffrage for All Women.” The title of the exhibit comes from a quote out of Gov. Thomas W. Bickett’s address to the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920, in which he urges legislators to ratify the amendment.

This display is part of a 15-month long DNCR commemoration of women gaining the right to vote. Titled, “She Changed the World: North Carolina Women Breaking Barriers,” it highlights the accomplishments of women across the centuries. A kickoff event at the State Capitol is planned for Saturday, September 7, 2019. For more information visit

In addition to the traveling exhibit, the State Archives is also conducting an oral history project to interview 100 women from across the state who have made significant contributions in areas like government/politics, education, STEM, culture, athletics, activism, or entrepreneurship. For more information about how to get involved visit

Additional resources pertaining to women’s suffrage are found in the North Carolina Digital Collections, a collaborative project between the State Library and the State Archives. To view those resources, visit

“An Absolute Moral Certainty”: The Woman Suffrage Movement in North Carolina

The National Woman Suffrage Association, founded by Susan B. Anthony, began pressuring Congress in the 1870s to amend the Constitution to guarantee women’s right to vote. Even though that effort failed, several states and territories granted suffrage through their state constitutions. North Carolina’s chapter of the Equal Suffrage Association, formed in 1894, had the same goal. The first attempt to grant women suffrage in North Carolina came in February of 1897 when J. L. Hyatt, a Republican from Yancey County, introduced a bill in the state senate. Legislators referred it to the Committee on Insane Asylums because Hyatt chaired that committee. The bill, which never made it out of committee, was eventually tabled and no action was taken.

At the turn of the twentieth century, activity to promote women’s suffrage subsided until 1913. Among others, Gertrude Weil (1879–1971) of Goldsboro helped establish local chapters of the Equal Suffrage Association. She served as president and fought tirelessly for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. She went on to serve as president of the League of Women Voters and lived to see the amendment finally ratified in her home state on May 6, 1971, only a few weeks before her death on May 30, 1971.

An undated picture of Gertrude Weil from the Gertrude Weil Papers, PC.1488.50, State Archives.

Pro-suffrage efforts by the Equal Suffrage Association included lobbying legislators, writing letters to state leaders, and distributing printed media (circulars, broadsides, and pamphlets) to support the cause. Long before e-mail, mass-produced form letters targeted certain audiences. Hundreds of letters were mailed to prominent residents of the state asking them to encourage their local representatives to support the amendment. Suffragists also wore sashes for rallies, parades, and street speaking.

The Equal Suffrage Association was not equal in the true sense of the word. It excluded African Americans, who began to assert their own political rights through churches, clubs, and suffrage societies. Women of color, like Charlotte Hawkins Brown, traveled extensively around the state promoting women’s suffrage and racial equality. She advanced education among her community and was a strong advocate of voter registration for all races of women.

A ca. 1910s image of Charlotte Hawkins Brown provided by North Carolina State Historic Sites.

Despite the concerted effort of suffragists, the 1915 legislature did not support the amendment, either as a state or federal constitutional amendment. The main opponents were white legislators from those counties with a sizeable African American population. They feared that people of color would be allowed to vote again, after decades of disenfranchisement. Using white supremacist tactics, some handbills warned Southern men to avoid even associating with women who were asking for equal suffrage, because giving women the right to vote would unleash “another period of reconstruction horror.”

Part of a larger broadside entitled, “The Negro and the New Social Order,” this 1919 anti-suffrage handbill is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

After World War I, on the heels of substantial wartime contributions by women, members of the Equal Suffrage Association felt confident that the North Carolina legislature would ratify the amendment. However, that did not happen, and legislators thwarted other attempts to allow women to vote in primaries or municipal elections.

On January 10, 1918, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate approved the Nineteenth Amendment. To become law, 36 out of 48 states needed to ratify it. North Carolina’s General Assembly received its copy of the amendment on June 12, 1919. By that time 35 states had ratified it, so only one more state needed to approve it. All eyes were on North Carolina at the national level.

This cartoon appeared on the back of a national pro-suffrage magazine. It uses the popular game “Love Me, Love Me Not?” to point out the North Carolina legislature’s indecision on the issue of women’s suffrage. From the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Over the course of the next year, anti-suffrage groups sprang into action. Mary Hilliard Hinton (1869–1961) of Knightdale founded a state branch of the Southern League for the Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Southern Rejection League). Backed by legislators who wanted to retain their seats in the General Assembly and textile owners who opposed child labor restrictions, this group was very active, using the same strategies as the pro-suffrage organizations. The States’ Rights Defense League formed in opposition to the federal amendment, asserting that it would destroy southern womanhood and disturb the American home. It also claimed that men would have to assume household duties.

Anti-suffrage broadside, a portion of which is from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Gov. Thomas W. Bickett called for a special session of the General Assembly to begin August 10, 1920 to vote on whether to ratify the amendment or not. At the start of the special session, 63 House members sent a Western Union Special telegram to the Tennessee General Assembly, dated August 11, 1920, urging them to reject the amendment. The telegram assured the legislators that North Carolina would not vote for women’s suffrage. It was a last-ditch effort to keep the Old North State from having to decide the fate of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.

Governor Bickett addressed the joint session of the General Assembly on August 13, 1920. He claimed that he personally opposed the amendment but realized the inevitability of its adoption. Therefore, he encouraged legislators to vote for it because ratification was “an absolute moral certainty” and “it would be the part of wisdom and of grace for North Carolina to ratify the amendment.”

After some debate, on August 17, 1920 the N.C. senate voted 25 to 23 to delay the matter until the 1921 session, on the grounds that they wanted enough time to discuss the matter with their constituents before voting. The bottom line was that they wanted to avoid making such a momentous and far-reaching decision. It became a moot point when Tennessee voted for ratification on August 18, 1920 and white women were granted the right to vote in the November 1920 election.

A few years later the Indian Citizenship Act asserted Native American women’s right to vote in 1924. African American women did not have a guaranteed right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even though North Carolina’s legislature (and many of its residents) did not support the Nineteenth Amendment initially, and women already possessed the right to vote and had been exercising it, the General Assembly finally ratified it, albeit symbolically, on May 6, 1971. There was no dissension and it passed both houses unanimously.

Grosgrain sash from the Equal Suffrage Amendment Collection, PC.1618.1, State Archives.

Finding Aids in DOC

With the launch of the State Archives of North Carolina’s new catalog system, Discover Online Catalog (DOC), there will be a new way to access the Archives’ finding aids and they will also have a brand new look.

There are two ways you can access the finding aids in DOC. The first option: when you have located a catalog record, if there is a finding aid available, there will be a link “view finding aid” under the record summary. This will open the finding aid in a new tab.

DOC Search Result

DOC Search Result

The second option: after clicking on the catalog record, if there is a finding aid available, there will be a button labeled, “Finding Aid” on the right side of the window which you can click on to open the finding aid in a new tab.

DOC Bibliographic Record

DOC Bibliographic Record



Finding Aid in DOC

Please note that not every collection will have a finding aid available. However, the finding aid only re-formats data that is already in our catalog system. The catalog records and the finding aids are the same information just displayed in different ways. So even if the collection you are looking at in the catalog doesn’t have a finding aid, you can still be assured that what you are looking at is the most up-to-date information we have available.

Additionally, the new look of our finding aids is still under construction, and there might be some quirks in how information is displayed. If you are concerned that the information the finding aid is displaying is inaccurate, please consult the catalog record or contact a reference archivist for further assistance. We appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

More information on how to navigate our new catalog system will be coming soon, stay tuned!

Document Facsimiles Relating to Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge on Display at the State Archives of North Carolina

[This blog post comes from Donna E. Kelly, head of the Special Collections Section of the State Archives of North Carolina.]

A page of handwritten text of Court minutes for men accused of storing Blackbeard's booty.

Part of the General Court minutes for men accused of storing Blackbeard’s booty. Colonial Court Records. State Archives of North Carolina [call number: C.C.R. 103]

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death, the State Archives of North Carolina is displaying several facsimiles of documents relating to his exploits along the coast, including his capture and death. The display, “Gone Out a Pirateing”: Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge, is currently on display in the State Archives’ Search Room and will run through early October.

“Gone Out a Pirateing” features a 1709 map of North Carolina and pages from the Chowan General Court Papers and the Executive Council Journal, both dated 1719. They include descriptive testimony against Edward Thatch, otherwise known as Blackbeard. The display also includes photocopies of four documents from the British National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office [PRO]). They were obtained through the Colonial Records Project, an initiative in the 1960s to copy all documents pertaining to North Carolina that were filed in the PRO.

From September 18 through October 1, this small exhibit will be displayed on the second floor of the Archives and History/State Library Building (109 East Jones St., Raleigh). It will run Tuesdays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A digitized version of the document, with additional pages, is available for viewing 24/7 in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Explore Genealogical Resources at One-Day Event June 23


Genealogy research is a complex subject that involves finding the right resources, keen detective work, and enduring patience.

A good place to begin or sharpen your research skills is the 2018 North Carolina Genealogical Society Speakers Forum, Saturday, June 23, 8:25 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the State Archives/State Library building, 109 E. Jones St., Raleigh. This day-long forum will feature presentations across three concurrent sessions focusing on case studies, methodology, ethnic research, organization, online resources, and writing.

Learn from working genealogists, researchers, archivists, librarians, and others who will help you identify and navigate land records, estates, wills, and other government records. Explore what can be found in newspaper archives, in digital records, and discover what resources are available for descendants of enslaved people and native Americans. Learn to organize and present your work into something to share and enjoy with other family members.

The forum cost is $35 for N.C. Genealogical Society members and $45 for non-members. Pre-registration is required and seating is limited. To view the program and register online, visit

The forum is co-sponsored by the State Archives of North Carolina and the Friends of the Archives.

See World War I Materials at Alamance Community College on March 29

[This blog post comes from Sarah Koonts, Director of Archives and Records for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Isham B. Hudson's war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

Isham B. Hudson’s war diary contains short entries covering his military unit’s movements throughout France in the fall of 1918 (Call number: WWI 49). Learn more about this item in the North Carolina Digital Collections.

One of the most rewarding experiences as State Archivist is the development of special exhibits utilizing a few unique original materials from our collections.  We develop these special exhibits on occasion to partner with a local historical society, museum, or historic site, often to promote a specific anniversary or event.  This year we are thrilled to offer a special exhibit with one of our favorite partners, Alamance Community College.  We invite you to join us March 29 for a full slate of programming around the centennial of World War I.

Held at the main building on the Carrington-Scott Campus of Alamance Community College (1247 Jimmie Kerr Road in Graham), the special exhibit will be held from 9 a.m.—5 p.m. on March 29.  Due to the number of school groups scheduled for the morning, the public is encouraged to consider an afternoon visit, if possible.  During the event, you can see some World War I materials from our military collections, a traveling exhibit about North Carolina and the Great War, and speak with costumed living- history specialists interpreting military service from the period.In addition, there will be soldier, nurse, and Red Cross uniforms on display from the Haw River Museum, Alamance County Historical Association, and the Women Veterans Historical Project from UNC, Greensboro.  Kids can join in the fun by coloring their own WWI poster and participating in other activities throughout the building.

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

A group of five young women wearing work overalls and caps, standing outside in front of a building at the Wiscassett Mills in Albemarle, N.C. These women replaced male mill workers sent to fight in World War I. (Call number: WWI 2.B11.F7.1)

We enjoy taking our treasures out to locations outside of Raleigh.  It is fun to share our collections and explain a little more about what we do at the State Archives.  North Carolina has a rich military history and our World Ward I materials are among the most prized.  Come visit Alamance Community College on March 29 to learn more about that history from 100 years ago.

Start @ Home: North Carolina Virtual Family History Fair

Join the North Carolina Government & Heritage Library and the State Archives of North Carolina for free online live streaming presentations. View on your own on a laptop or desktop or at participating North Carolina libraries.

This year the presentations will be focusing on local collections and resources for local and family history research. Local records, libraries and archives are a treasure trove of excellent information to Start @ Home for research.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Streaming Online

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM EST  

North Carolina Virtual Family History Fair Schedule

10 AM: Local Collections and Records for Family and Local History

Everything is local, local, local! Staff from the State Archives of North Carolina and the Government and Heritage Library will discuss how information at their repositories will help you in your quest–treasures include local government records, county abstracts, family histories, and other resources.

11 AM: Newspapers and Finding Treasures

Newspapers contain a wealth of information from the articles to the advertisements; information that provides knowledge and insight into periods of time that may change the course of their research. Staff from the Government and Heritage Library, the State Archives of NC, and the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center discuss what and where information is available about both current and historical NC newspapers, tools to access newspaper content, and current, ongoing services to provide access to out of print newspapers.

12 PM: DigitalNC for Family and Local History Research

There are numerous types of materials held by public libraries and other local cultural heritage institutions that can provide invaluable information about local and family history that cannot be found elsewhere.  Kristen Merryman, the Digital Projects Librarian from the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, will discuss the city directories, yearbooks, and other local level publications that has freely available for many towns and counties across North Carolina and how they can be used to fill in gaps and enrich your knowledge of your town and family’s past.

1 PM: Genealogy of a House

Staff from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office will discuss different methods of research to uncover the genealogy of your house. Michael Southern, GIS coordinator and senior architectural historian, will demonstrate HPOWEB (, a web-based historic properties GIS mapping tool, and review information available in local architectural survey publications and nominations of properties and districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Claudia Brown, Survey & National Register Branch supervisor and architectural survey coordinator, will discuss resources for research such as city directories and Sanborn Insurance Fire Maps.  Mitch Wilds, Restoration Services Branch supervisor, will talk about analyzing the building elements of a property in order to date it.


Call: (919)807-7450



Constitution Day Event at Historic Henderson County Courthouse

North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights, 1789

North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights, 1789. Part of the Vault Collection. Available online at

In honor of Constitution Day, the State Archives of North Carolina is presenting public programs at the Historic Henderson County Courthouse on September 18, 2017.  The program will be given at 9 AM, 10:30 AM, and 1 PM.  It will feature the odyssey of North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights from North Carolina’s role in the development of the document through its theft after the Civil War and recovery almost 140 years later.

The historic courthouse is located at 1 Historic Courthouse Square on Main Street in Hendersonville.

The event is free and open to the public.