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West Virginia Women's Suffrage Trail

Zone 7 of 10: Charleston

You are vieweing item 32 of 40 in this tour.

Anna Johnson Gates was a West Virginia suffragist and was the first woman elected to a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates, representing Kanawha County. She served one term and remained active in Democratic Party politics until her death in 1939.

Anna and Thomas Gates lived at 7 Gates Place, or Apt. 7 of the Gates Apartments, on Broad Street. Gates Place was located between Lee and Washington Streets on Broad Street. Broad Street was renamed Leon Sullivan Way in 2000.


Anna Johnson Gates, West Virginia Legislative Handbook, 1924

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Anna Johnson Gates

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1922 Democratic Ticket

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Spirit of Jefferson, November 14, 1922

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The Charleston Daily Mail, November 21, 1922

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"Complete unofficial returns" for the WV legislature, Spirit of Jefferson, November 21, 1922

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Greenbrier Independent, November 24, 1922

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The Charleston Daily Mail, November 26, 1922

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The Wheeling Intelligencer, December 29, 1922

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Belington Progressive, January 25, 1923

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Hinton Daily News, January 13, 1939

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Anna Johnson Gates death certificate

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Charleston City Directory, 1915

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1920 US Census

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1930 US Census

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Charleston City Directory, 1936

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Charleston City Directory, 1915, states that Gates Place was on Broad between Lee and Washington.

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1932 Charleston City Directory showing that Gates place was between Lee and Washington Streets on Broad Street

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Anna Johnson was born at East Bank January 25, 1889 to James T. and Isabel Spruce Johnson. As a child she attended Montgomery public schools and later attended business school at Parkersburg. Anna Johnson married Harry Gates in 1912, but the marriage was short as Harry died in January 1914. The following year, Anna Johnson Gates married Harry’s brother, Thomas Gates, in June 1915.

Anna Johnson Gates was active in the women’s suffrage movement, but is more recognized for her role in politics after women secured the right to vote. In 1920 Gates was the chairman of the Women’s Democratic Executive Committee of Kanawha County and in 1922 she decided to run for office. While women could vote in the 1920 election, they were not able to run for office since the campaigning deadlines had passed. 1922 was the first campaign season in which women could be candidates. Among the women running for local, state, and national positions, six women ran for seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Five of these women passed their primaries and were on the ballot in November 1922. Anna Johnson Gates won 16,568 votes and was in fifth place—since Kanawha County had six delegate spots, Gates won a seat in the House representing Kanawha.

Anna Johnson Gates was the first woman to hold a seat in the West Virginia state legislature and she served one term. During her term she sponsored 13 pieces of legislature, 5 of which successfully passed. One of her biggest bills was for “Mother’s Pensions” that provided welfare support to mothers and women with children whose husband could not support the family. Another successful bill allowed the Kanawha County Board of Education to establish and maintain a public library. Gates chaired the House Committee on Arts, Science and General Improvements.

Anna Johnson Gates was a member of the Woman’s Club and the Business and Professional Women’s Club. Although she only served one term in the House of Delegates, she remained active in Democratic Party politics. In 1932 she served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

After a long illness, Anna Johnson Gates died January 12, 1939, two weeks before her 50th birthday. She is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston. Thomas Gates lived until 1951 and is buried with Anna at Spring Hill Cemetery. 

“Anna Johnson Gates.” e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/print/Article/2086.

“Anna Johnson Gates.” Find A Grave. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/136556173/anna-gates.

“Chapter Eight: Women and the Political Process.” Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. A West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit. Accessed July 4, 2022. http://archive.wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffrage8.html.

“Harry A. Gates.” Find A Grave. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/154894272/harry-a-gates.

"Leon Sullivan--The Sullivan Principles." West Virginia State University. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.wvstateu.edu/about/history-and-traditions/leon-sullivan.aspx.

“Mrs. Tom Gates Dies in Hospital. First Woman Legislator’s Funeral to Be Held Tomorrow.” Charleston Gazette, January 13, 1939. West Virginia Archives and History. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://archive.wvculture.org/history/women/gatesanna03.html.

“Thomas Gates.” Find A Grave. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/141752936/thomas-gates.

West Virginia, U.S. Marriages Index, 1785-1971. Accessed through Ancestry.com, July 4, 2022. 

Image Sources(Click to expand)

"Anna Johnson Gates, West Virginia Legislative Handbook, 1924." Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote. A West Virginia Archives and History Online Exhibit. Accessed July 4, 2022. http://archive.wvculture.org/history/exhibitsonline/suffrage/suffrage69.html.

"On This Day in West Virginia History..." West Virginia Archives & History. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://archive.wvculture.org/history/thisdayinwvhistory/1107A.html.

"On This Day in West Virginia History..." West Virginia Archives & History. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://archive.wvculture.org/history/thisdayinwvhistory/1107A.html.

Spirit of Jefferson. [volume], November 14, 1922, Image 2. Chronicling America. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026788/1922-11-14/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Women in History: Anna Johnson Gates." Thoughts and Ponderances. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://seletyn.com/2022/03/28/women-in-history-anna-johnson-gates/.

Spirit of Jefferson. [volume], November 21, 1922, Image 2. Chronicling America. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026788/1922-11-21/ed-1/seq-2/.

Greenbrier independent. [volume], November 24, 1922, Image 1. Chronicling America. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84037217/1922-11-24/ed-1/seq-1/.

"Women in History: Anna Johnson Gates." Thoughts and Ponderances. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://seletyn.com/2022/03/28/women-in-history-anna-johnson-gates/.

The Wheeling intelligencer. [volume], December 29, 1922, Page 4, Image 4. Chronicling America. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092536/1922-12-29/ed-1/seq-4/.

Belington progressive. [volume], January 25, 1923, Image 2. Chronicling America. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86092333/1923-01-25/ed-1/seq-2/.

"Women in History: Anna Johnson Gates." Thoughts and Ponderances. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://seletyn.com/2022/03/28/women-in-history-anna-johnson-gates/.

“Anna Johnson Gates.” Find A Grave. Accessed July 4, 2022. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/136556173/anna-gates.

Charleston, West Virginia, City Directory, 1915. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Accessed July 4, 2022.

1920; Census Place: Charleston Ward 11, Kanawha, West Virginia; Roll: T625_1958; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 107. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Accessed July 4, 2022.

1930; Census Place: Charleston, Kanawha, West Virginia; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0044; FHL microfilm: 2342271. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002. Accessed July 4, 2022.

Charleston, West Virginia, City Directory, 1936. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Accessed July 4, 2022.

Charleston, West Virginia, City Directory, 1915. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Accessed July 4, 2022.

Charleston, West Virginia, City Directory, 1932. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Accessed July 4, 2022.