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Emma V. Kelley

Calvary Cemetery
Section 12, Block 12, Lot 198, Space W CTR
(February 8th 1867 – December 14th 1932)

 Dr. Emma V. Kelley picture

Emma V. Kelley (1865—1932) was born the daughter of John and Agnes Lee, who were among the first settlers in Barrett’s Neck in Suffolk, VA. Her parents are remembered as hardworking, deeply religious people whose Christian teaching left a strong impression on their daughter. Taking advantage of educational opportunities offered to her by her parents and by the first public schools in Nansemond, young Emma qualified for admission to the Hampton Normal Institute, where she excelled as a student and began her career as a teacher. It is noteworthy that parents in the small rural community, who were little more than a decade removed from slavery, found the means to send their daughter away to normal school. After teaching for a number of years, Emma married Robert Kelley in 1893. Her husband died seven years later, and she moved to Norfolk in 1900.

Shortly after arriving in Norfolk, Mrs. Kelley started working to form an organization for women. She decided that this could best be done by founding an auxiliary to the Brothers of the Elks. Her idea was not warmly embraced by all of the brothers; yet she persevered. In 1902, Norfolk Temple No. 1-A of the Daughters of the Elks Auxiliary to the Order of the Elks organization, the first of its kind in the United States, was opened. The despair and poverty of body and spirit that Mrs. Kelley saw among her people, especially women, compelled her to seek group action. Mrs. Kelley said that many of her fellow-women were friendless, without shelter, ill, and “bowed down with despair for they saw a bleak future without hope.” For the remainder of her life, she worked through her organization to uplift the lives of African American women. By the time of her death, thirty years later, the auxiliary had grown into an international organization of 35,000 women. Following Mrs. Kelley’s interment at Calvary Cemetery in 1932, the Daughters of the Elks erected a marble monument with an angel standing atop it at her gravesite. Annual memorial services were held in her honor for many years.

source: on page 7.

Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Saturday 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 1600 St. Julian Ave., Norfolk, VA 23504

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