Sue Shelton White

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Sue Shelton White (1887 - May 6, 1943), called Miss Sue, was a feminist leader and lawyer originally from Henderson, Tennessee who served as a national leader of the women's suffrage movement.


White was the sixth of seven children born to teachers James Shelton White and Mary Calista (Swain) White in Henderson. She was orphaned at fourteen, but continued her education, graduating from the two-year Georgie Robertson Christian College, now Freed-Hardeman University in 1904 and from West Tennessee Business College in Dyer County in 1905. She worked for some time as a court reporter in Henderson and Jackson.


White joined the woman suffrage movement in 1912. She was originally active in the moderate Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association (an affiliate of the National American Woman Suffrage Association), and was elected recording secretary for that organization in 1913, but gradually concluded that Alice Paul and Lucy Burns' more radical National Woman's Party, whose speaking tour through Tennessee by Maud Younger she had helped facilitate, was advocating policies and methods which would be more effective. She joined the NWP in 1918, became chair of the Tennessee chapter, and moved to Washington, D.C., where she edited the organization's newspaper, The Suffragist.

With other members of the NWP, White drew national attention when on February 19, 1919, they held the latest of their Silent Sentinels series of demonstrations in front of the White House and burned a paper effigy of President Woodrow Wilson (which White herself dropped into the fire) to protest Wilson's lack of energy in pressuring balky Senators of his own party. White, with others, was arrested and jailed. After her release, White and others like her chartered a railroad car they called the "Prison Special," which toured the United States to keep the issue of suffrage before the public.

After the Amendment[edit]

She worked in the 1932 presidential campaign of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and from 1934 (when she moved to Washington, D.C.) held a variety of posts in the New Deal, culminating in her role as principal counsel of the Social Security Administration. She died in 1943 of cancer.


  • "Sue Shelton White", in Adams, Katherine H. and Michael L. Keene, After the Vote Was Won: The Later Achievements of Fifteen Suffragists Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2010; pp. 143–150 and passim
  • Huehls, Betty Sparks. Sue Shelton White: Lady Warrior Memphis: University of Memphis Press, 2002


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