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Bold Women of Richmond 2020

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One hundred years ago, thanks to Maggie L. Walker, Sophie Meredith, Ora Brown Stokes, Ellen Kidd and so many others, Richmond women registered to vote and went to the polls for the first time that November.

Their work to open the political process to women came on the heels of many of them starting their own businesses and creating spaces in which women could support one another and transform social policy.

Civil rights activist Walker founded a bank, a store on Broad Street downtown and a newspaper serving Richmond’s African American community.

Meredith, finding the strategy of Virginia’s Equal Suffrage League too plodding, joined suffragist Alice Paul and the Congressional Union in picketing outside the White House and across the street in Lafayette Park, getting arrested four times.

Social worker Stokes, along with Walker, worked to systematically register 2,410 African American women. She then served as president of the Negro Women Voters League of Virginia and as president of the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.Stokes urged women to “place their ears very close to the very heart of social conditions to hear and answer the cry of the needy and depressed.”

Ellen G. Kidd, who owned the nationally acclaimed Pin-Money Pickle company, served as the first treasurer of the Equal Suffrage League and became the first female member of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce in 1913.

The women in this section carry on these pioneers’ work of supporting other Richmond women and addressing community needs — of building a better Richmond. The 22 businesswomen and their respective companies included also generously sponsored a companion page for a female nonprofit leader. And, collectively, the Bold Women of Richmond section will help to financially support the 2020 Women’s Build project, overseen by Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity’s team of bold women — including CEO Mary Kay Huss and Community Engagement Director Whitney Guthrie.

Richmond magazine’s Custom Studio publishing team interviewed these 44 women two months into our post-COVID-19 world. Many talked about challenges met and challenges to come. Above all else, they shared ways that we could support one another.

Leah Coleman, president of Boss Babes RVA, a network of more than 8,000 women, shared this takeaway:

“When you are starting out, you need a sounding board, especially if you are opening [a business] alone. Boss Babes is about giving other women the courage to do it, to be bold.”

Be bold, Richmond.

—Susan Winiecki, associate publisher, Richmond magazine

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