Pattie Belle <I>Ruffner</I> Jacobs


Pattie Belle Ruffner Jacobs

Malden, Kanawha County, West Virginia, USA
Death 22 Dec 1935 (aged 60)
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA
Burial Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA
Plot block 25, lot 138
Memorial ID 7154958 View Source
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Social Reformer. Pattie Ruffner Jacobs' parents were Lewis and Virginia Ruffner. Originally from Virginia, the family had moved to Malden, West Virginia, by the time of her birth. Soon after she was born, her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Her father ran a mercantile business, and her mother, who had been well educated, saw to it that her six children, both boys and girls, received an education as well. Pattie attended school in Nashville and graduated in 1893. That same year, her father died. She and her mother went to live with her older sister, Bertha Ruffner Jones, in Birmingham, Alabama. For the next year, she continued her education at the Birmingham Training School for Teachers. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to study art and music, then returned to Birmingham in 1896. She dreamed of going to college, but she also saw the appeal of marriage and motherhood. In 1898 she married Solon "Sol" Jacobs, a successful Birmingham entrepreneur and the founder of Birmingham Slag Company. They had two daughters, Madeleine and Virginia. Solon Jacobs was a prominent businessman, so after their marriage, she found herself in the middle of the Birmingham social scene. Around this time, she also became increasingly concerned about social issues such as problems in public education, child labor practices, convict leasing and prostitution. She became convinced that it was necessary to enfranchise women to bring about real social change, and her husband supported her in this. Her husband did more than allow her to do her work, he actively supported her and he recognized the importance of her efforts. She used the social connections she had made to begin a fight for equality and justice, and this would become the consuming passion of her life. She organized the Birmingham Equal Suffrage League in 1911, which soon evolved into a statewide organization, the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association. Its motto was: “We mean to make Alabama lead the South for Women’s Suffrage.” She was elected its first president and continued in this role for a number of years. She threw herself into the suffrage cause, making speeches, trying to attract attention and raising money in support of the movement. Birmingham suffragists held bazaars selling homemade items, and tried to dispel men's fear that suffrage meant a woman's abandonment of home and family. They held dances, teas and coffees to recruit members, and wrote newspaper columns and articles. They stood in store windows displaying suffrage brochures and they manned a Suffrage Booth every year at the State Fair to hand out literature. She was instrumental in opening an office of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association in downtown Birmingham in 1913 that featured a coffee room where working women could come eat their lunch and learn about the cause. At this time, she was considered the leading suffragist not only in Birmingham, but in the state of Alabama. In 1915, the AESA spearheaded a failed attempt to get Alabama to grant women the right to vote, so she turned her efforts toward passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, becoming an active member of the National Equal Suffrage Association. She led efforts toward other socially-progressive laws as well, such as an attempt to establish an 8-hour work day. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt recognized her leadership with appointments to commissions such as the Consumer Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration and as a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1933 she was the first woman appointed to the Democratic National Committee from Alabama. She saw the passage of the nineteenth Amendment in 1920 and was finally able to cast a ballot, but didn’t live to see Alabama ratify that amendment in 1953, eighteen years after her passing from a heart attack. In recognition of her contributions, she was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1978. She made a difference during a time when women were not expected or encouraged to be involved in political matters, or much of anything outside their homes. She dedicated her life to making Alabama a better place for women and a better place for all to live.

Bio by: Pete Mohney

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Laurie
  • Added: 6 Feb 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7154958
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Pattie Belle Ruffner Jacobs (2 Oct 1875–22 Dec 1935), Find a Grave Memorial ID 7154958, citing Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .