Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Idelia W. M. Johnson Bagnall (8 September 1872–8 May 1931), civic leader, was born in Norfolk, the only daughter and younger of two children of Mary E. Johnson. She attended local public schools and graduated in 1891 from the Norfolk Mission College, at which she later worked as a teacher and librarian. On 16 September 1897 she married Thomas S. Bagnall, a letter carrier and kinsman of Robert Wellington Bagnall, a Norfolk native who rose to national prominence as an Episcopal minister and leader of chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit and Philadelphia.

Ida W. Bagnall, as she was generally known, emerged early in the twentieth century as a leader in several social service organizations in Norfolk. About 1912 she began working as dock agent for the Colored Women's Protective League. She provided temporary shelter and counseling for women who arrived in Norfolk by train or steamer during the large immigration occasioned by World War I. She worked under the joint sponsorship of the league, the Traveler's Aid Society, and the Young Women's Christian Association. Bagnall eventually became first executive secretary of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Norfolk, held other responsible positions in the YWCA's local and state divisions, and worked with several other charitable and self-help organizations in Tidewater Virginia. She became a founding member of the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs and formed its junior department.

At one time or another Bagnall held local offices in the Traveler's Aid Society, the White Rose Club, the National Urban League, and the Norfolk branch of the Needlework Guild of America, of which she was president. She helped found the Hamper Basket Exchange, later the Hamper Basket Club, which evolved into Norfolk's Colored United Charities, the most important of all the volunteer agencies serving the African American community in Norfolk during her lifetime, and she was its executive secretary at the time of her death. Bagnall may not have been widely known outside of Norfolk or even among its white citizens, but her long career in public service work attracted attention and was long remembered by Norfolk's African American population. In June 1959, twenty-eight years after her death, the Calvert Park Civic League placed a plaque honoring her and her work in Calvert Park, near a public housing development on Bagnall Road, which the Norfolk Housing Authority named in her honor. Bagnall's only child, Wanser Idiliah Bagnall Webb, succeeded her as executive secretary of Colored United Charities. Ida W. Bagnall died in Norfolk on 8 May 1931 from complications resulting from an infected tooth. Most of Norfolk's African American clergymen attended her funeral at the First Baptist Church. She was buried in West Point Cemetery in Norfolk.

Sources Consulted:
Birth Register and Marriage Register, Norfolk City, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; United States Census Schedules, Norfolk City, 1880, 1900 (with variant Dec. 1875 birth date), Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; other family history information provided by grandson John Quincy Adams Webb, Houston, Texas; Norfolk Mission College, Catalogue (1894/1895): 6; Norfolk Journal and Guide, 20 June 1959, Home Edition; obituary in Norfolk Journal and Guide, 16 May 1931.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Martha H. Brown.

How to cite this page:
Martha H. Brown, "Idelia W. M. Johnson Bagnall (1872–1931)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 1998 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Bagnall_Ida_W, accessed [today's date]).

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