Mrs. Woodbey was active in the temperance and woman suffrage movements. This cartoon from the February 8, 1919, issue of The Woman Citizen noted the connection between the two causes, implying that the “liquor interests” opposed giving women the vote because they feared that women voters would favor prohibition.
At the Nebraska Prohibition Party’s statewide convention, held in July 1895 in Lincoln, Anna R. Woodbey of Douglas County was nominated for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. Regents were then elected on partisan ballots in odd-numbered years. The prohibition newspaper, Our Nation’s Anchor (Lincoln), on July 20, reported that it believed her to be the first African American woman “ever honored with a nomination on a state ticket by any political party in the United States.”
Our Nation’s Anchor briefly summarized Mrs. Woodbey’s background: A native of Pennsylvania, she was married to George W. Woodbey, later ordained a Baptist minister, in 1873. She began to speak publicly “while yet a child on religious and historical subjects, as well as suffrage and temperance.” As a speaker she was “even more impressing and entertaining than her husband, who is considered an orator.”
Mrs. Woodbey’s qualifications for the office of regent included membership in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union “for the last ten years, being the only Negro woman connected with the local W.C.T.U. of which she is a member and served for some years as its president . . . . She was also a member of the Woman’s Suffrage convention at Hastings, Neb., and was one of the speakers. She devoted several weeks to the famous Nebraska amendment campaign,” a failed attempt in 1890 to vote prohibition into the state constitution by means of a proposed constitutional amendment.
Learn the outcome of Mrs. Woodbey’s bid in 1895 to become a university regent, even more unusual in an age when women could not vote, and the names of other female Prohibition Party candidates who ran for statewide office in the 1890s, in Timeline columns on the Nebraska State Historical Society website.
—Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications