Jeanne Doan, Assistant Director & John J. Zimkus, WCHS Historian
Three women, of varied backgrounds, joined together to become the nucleus of the women’s suffrage movement in Warren County: Lucile Blackburn Berry, Mary Proctor Wilson and Ladora Scoville Owens (once owner of Glendower Mansion).
The first meeting of what would become the Equal Suffrage League met in the Lebanon Opera House on April 22, 1912. After a committee was formed to nominate officers, Wilson was chosen as the first president and Owens as the vice president. Representatives from each township were selected and Berry was picked to represent Turtlecreek.
On June 27, 1912, the committee met at Wilson’s home at 108 N. Broadway, located at the northeast corner of Silver and Broadway (The Breakfast Club stands there now). There, the League arranged for the Dr. S. D. Fess, the Republican candidate for Congress in the sixth district and the president of Antioch College, to deliver a non-partisan address at the Lebanon Opera House. There, he put himself on record for the women’s suffrage proposal. Fess would win that election and later be elected a US senator from Ohio.
In 1912, multimillionaire real estate magnet and Lebanon native, William Elmer Harmon (you can learn all about him in a previous post) appointed his good friend, Owens, to be a board member of the newly established Harmon Civic Trust. Harmon had stipulated that at least two members of the Trust’s board of trustees must be women. Owens was one and Berry was the other. The League made arrangements with the Trust to hold regular meetings at Harmon Hall.
By 1914, Lucile Blackburn Berry was the president of the Equal Suffrage League. On July 23, 1914, The Western Star reported that the League had “held a very enthusiastic" meeting on July 17. At the meeting, Berry "...gave a report of the results of the recent circulation of petitions. There were 1,049 signatures obtained in the County." Wilson, along with another couple, the Chapmans, were chosen to present the petitions to the Secretary of State in Columbus. Nearly 150,000 names were signed to the suffrage petitions, 46,000 more than necessary.
The Western Star headline, on July 30, 1914, read, “Ohio Suffragists To Descend on State Capitol Today." And descend they did. At 4:30 that afternoon, bands accompanied suffrages from Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron and other areas to form a procession that marched from the Ohio Suffrage Organization's Columbus headquarters, in the Chamber of Commerce Building, to Capitol Square.
Harriet Taylor Upton, the organization's president, spoke along with several others including the president of Ohio State University and Representative W. B. Kilpatrick. The counties presented their petitions and, as planned, Mr. and Mrs. Chapman and Mary Proctor Wilson presented Warren County's.
Congress wouldn't draft the 19th amendment (giving women the right to vote) until 1919 but Ohio was quick to ratify it on June 16, 1919. The also passed a law stating that, if the amendment wasn't a law by the 1920 election, women would be about to view in Ohio regardless. However, by August of 1920, the amendment would gain the backing it needed (36 states) and pass into constitutional law. Thanks, in part, to a teacher (Berry), a newspaper editor (Wilson) and a socialite (Owens) who came together to fight for all Americans' right to vote, regardless of gender.
Learn more of the story at Harmon Museum's newest exhibit, "Women Leading the Way."
“No man is good enough to govern any woman without her consent.”
Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony was the daughter of Daniel and Lucy Read Anthony, Quakers and political activists in the abolitionist movement. After the family moved to Rochester, New York in 1845, Anthony would meet William Lloyd Garrison as well as anti-slavery activist and escaped slave, Frederick Douglass. Douglass would later join Anthony in the quest for women's equality.
Anthony was a prominent player in the Temperance Movement, going so far as to take an axe into bars to destroy the barrels of alcohol, which got her arrested on several occasions. When she was denied the chance to speak, at a Temperance Movement rally, because she was a woman, Anthony took her attention to a new cause, women's equality.
In those days, women were – for the most part – considered property. To fight against the status que, Anthony joined forces with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the pair became a driving force in the suffrage movement. Under heavy opposition, they traveled across the country giving speeches and inspiring women - and men alike - to support the cause. In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and later, the American Equal Rights Association, an organization for white and black women and men dedicated to universal suffrage.
On November 1st, 1872, Anthony, Stanton and two others, registered to vote at a barbershop in Rochester, NY, becoming the first women to do so. How'd they do it? Well, Anthony threatened to sue the registrars personally if they didn't let them. On Election Day, the ballots were secretly cast (the ladies dressed as men). Two weeks later Anthony was arrested and fined $100, which she refused to pay – and never did. "The only chance women have for justice in this country is to violate the law, as I have done, and as I shall continue to do."
"To think, I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel." Susan B. Anthony passed away, in 1903, at the age of 86. She would never see the culmination of her life's work. It'll be another 17 years before the 19th Amendment grants women the right to vote in the US. On November 2, 1920, more than 8 million American women exercised that right.
We're still working on true equality in this nation but, thankfully, are a far cry from women being considered property. The strides toward equality that have been made are, in large part, thanks to Anthony and the other brave women and men that fought, tirelessly for those strides. Now, every time a woman votes, holds political office or manages her own finances, she is doing so – whether she is aware or not – in the spirit of Susan B. Anthony.
-Nathaniel Grauwelman is the Marketing Manager and a staff writer of the blog for WCHS.
How many women out there have exercised their right to vote? On this day in 1872, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and two others, registered to vote at a barbershop in Rochester, NY, becomming the first women to do so. How'd they do it? Well, Anthony threatened to sue the registrars personally if they didn't let them. On Election Day, the ballots were secretly cast (the ladies dressed as men). Two weeks later Anthony was arrested and fined $100 (about $2,000 today), which she refused to pay.
It'll be more than 40 years before the 19th Amendment will grant women the right to vote in the US. On November 2, 1920, more than 8 million American women will exercise their right to vote.
2020 is all about Women's Sufferage at Harmon Museum with talks and an exhibit featuring the women who fought for the vote in Warren County!
Today marks the day I was born but it also marks something else. On August 28th, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic speech to the masses that gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
My favorite college history professor played this speech for us, one day in class, and cried in the wake of its weight. I was lucky enough to find this on LP at a local antique mall. There's just something electrifying about hearing it.
"This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: 'My country, ‘tis of thee...' And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men (and women) and white men (and women), Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
We still have a ways to go for equality, but at least we're making progress.
- Nathaniel (Marketing Manager with WCHS)
On April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martian Luther King Jr was fatally shot while on his balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. King was in Memphis in support of African American city sanitation workers after unequal wages, poor treatment and finally the deaths of two workers caused a strike.
A clergyman and prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate (recipient), known for his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience.
Dr. King was nearly fatally stabbed in 1958 and had constant death threats made against him, including a bomb threat made against the plane he planned to fly to Memphis on.
On April 3rd he gave his last public address, later known as the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address, part of which was as follows:
"Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you... But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"
Staff and volunteers of WCHS