Gertrude Weil—Advocate for Suffrage and Civil Rights

Weil (far left) with a group of other suffragettes. Image from the State Archives

Weil (far left) with a group of other suffragettes. Image from the State Archives

On May 30, 1971, Gertrude Weil died at the age of 91. A humanitarian, social reformer and philanthropist, Weil was born in 1879 in Goldsboro to department store owners Henry and Mina Weil.  The Weils were a wealthy Jewish family who settled in North Carolina about 1865.

Weil in 1905. Image from the State Archives

Weil in 1905. Image from the State Archives

After graduating from Smith College in 1901, Weil traveled extensively and turned her energies toward social reform. By 1920, she helped found the North Carolina Suffrage League, the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs and the North Carolina League of Women Voters. She also helped establish the Wayne County Health Department. Weil served as president for the North Carolina Association for Jewish Women but worked tirelessly for interfaith activities and initiatives.

Civil rights became her focus in the 1950s when she funded a park and swimming pool for African Americans and founded the Bi-Racial Council in 1963. During her lifetime Weil received many awards, including the Smith College Medal, given to alumnae who “exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”

Just weeks before Weil’s death in 1971, North Carolina finally ratified the 19th Amendment, which granted women suffrage, 50 years after it had become the law of the land.

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