Let Ohio Women Vote! The Suffrage Centennial on Ohio Memory

Large group of suffragists with “Votes for Women” pennants, ca. 1910-1919. Via Ohio Memory.

This past Tuesday, June 4th, marks the 100th anniversary of the day that the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress and sent on to the states for ratification. Ohio voted to ratify on June 16th of that year–the sixth state to do so, and one of the original 36 required in order to approve the new amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In today’s post, hear from one of our recent interns who helped us document and share the story of women’s suffrage in Ohio!

Mary Warren letter to Mrs. Bachman, October 4, 1914. Via Ohio Memory.

For the last semester, I have worked with the Ohio History Connection as an intern in Digital Services, working on a project for the 100 year celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Through working with these documents related to the suffrage movement in Ohio, I’ve learned many things about the fight for women’s suffrage. New digital content in the collection focuses heavily on the Franklin County Woman Suffrage Association (FCWSA), which worked closely with the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association to achieve the right to vote for women in Ohio. The Franklin County Woman Suffrage Association provided materials and planned events for suffragists across the state. For example, the FCWSA helped the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association with organizing a suffrage speaker for a fair in Wapakoneta in 1914.

The Franklin County Woman Suffrage Association was essential in helping suffragists in smaller counties and cities campaign locally. Women across the state of Ohio who worked with smaller suffrage organizations would often write to Lucile Atcherson, who served as secretary for the FCWSA, to request literature in support of suffrage such as leaflets, posters, ribbons, buttons, and more. The FCWSA’s production and distribution of these materials played a significant role in the passage of the 19th Amendment in Ohio. Local suffragists in smaller counties needed these materials to help convince voters that women deserved the right to vote. In the letter seen at right, a Groveport resident wrote to the FCWSA to request literature in support of suffrage, and explained that she and fellow local suffragists could not make a strong enough impression on voters without the help of such materials.

Color postcard version of a poster designed by Cornelia Cassady-Davis of Cincinnati for the “Votes for Women” campaign. Via Ohio Memory.

Working on this project has helped me understand how much effort went into the fight for equal suffrage and how influential the work of local suffrage associations was. It’s not surprising that the statewide organization (the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association) and the large Franklin County Woman Suffrage Association were so critical in statewide organizing and campaigning for suffrage, but the work of local suffragists in smaller counties and cities was absolutely essential as well. These women were handing out literature to voters in their cities, organizing debates, and doing the necessary, on-the-ground work to promote suffrage.

In the U.S. today, it seems completely natural that women have the right to vote. But browsing through this collection can be eye-opening for those who haven’t studied the suffrage movement and do not understand how hard women worked to achieve that right. This collection also shows how badly women needed the vote 100 years ago. In the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association’s 1894 convention program, there was included a section that denounced age of consent laws in the U.S. at that time. In 36 states in 1894, the age of consent for girls was under 15 years old, and in some of those states the age was as low as 7-10 years old. Women needed to be granted suffrage so they could use their right to vote to protect themselves and younger girls under the law.

The passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago has allowed women to protect themselves under the law and vote on the matters that will affect them, and the crucial hard work of suffragists should always be celebrated and not taken for granted today.

Thank you to Allison Bolam for this week’s post! Allison is a History major at The Ohio State University, and recently wrapped up an internship in the Ohio History Connection Digital Services Department as part of her Historical Internship coursework.

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