Nellie Nugent Somerville

Nellie Nugent was born in Greenville, Mississippi, in 1863 on her grandmother’s plantation. Her father was serving in the Confederate army when she was born, and her mother died when she was two. Although her father remarried, he was widowed again, then married again when his daughter was seven. Raised primarily by her grandmother, Nugent was a precocious child and attended Whitworth College, a boarding school, in Brookhaven at age 12. She graduated from Martha Washington College in Virginia. She married Robert Somerville in 1885, and they had four children. Somerville became active in women’s rights, was an officer in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and organized the Mississippi Women’s Suffrage Association. She also served as vice-president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. In 1923, she became the first woman elected to the Mississippi legislature and served until 1927. Somerville helped to reorganize the state mental hospital and died in 1952. Her papers are in the Radcliffe College-Harvard University Library.

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