Aug 07 2018

A History of 100 Years of Women Voting in Ohio

This year marks an important anniversary in Ohio’s political history. It is time to explore what we can do to bring this part of Ohio’s political history to the forefront. Our efforts should be aimed at helping the Republican Party increase female support and can also be instrumental in the 2018 statewide races and the 2020 Presidential race.  This effort should be a joint undertaking of counties and statewide organizations. A multi-year campaign will document the incredible journey of women’s suffrage.  To underscore the importance of the female vote: the first time women voters cast ballots in 1920; Ohio Republican Warren Harding was elected to the White House. His victory was attributed to women voters.

It took 74 years for women to move from the back of Ohio’s legislative chambers to the front when Jo Ann Davidson was sworn in as Ohio’s first and only female Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in 1994!

Women have proven again and again that they have some of the most reliable demographic voters and the most crucial swing group. The struggle for women’s rights was first noted during the American Revolution, but it did not come to recognition until the Seneca Falls New York Convention in 1848.  Then the movement gained momentum in Ohio. Ohio now became a battleground for women with major meetings taking place.

In 1850, a convention was held in Salem, Ohio and then the women’s movement took on a life of its own in 1851 with a meeting held in Akron.  The next major event followed with the fourth National Women’s rights convention held in Cleveland in 1853. By 1869 the American Suffrage Association formed by Lucy Stone and other conservative activists went to work exclusively for women’s suffrage, focused on amending individual State Constitutions.

From 1871 to 1876 the women in South Newbury, Ohio cast their votes in state, local and presidential election. Their votes were rejected. Ohio women who actively participated in this reform movement included Lucy Stone and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Women suffrage amendments to the Ohio Constitution were proposed by this group but were defeated by the Ohio General Assembly in 1888, 1890 and 1891. In 1894, Ohio women got the right to vote and serve on school boards. Cleveland women took a very active role in 1910 with women such as Belle Sherwin and Marie Jenny Howe to elect delegates to the Ohio Constitutional Convention. East Cleveland voters adopted a new charter that allowed women to vote in Municipal Elections. The Board of Elections challenged the charter provision, but the Ohio Supreme Court decided that the Lakewood women go the right to vote in municipal elections.

The lead attorney for the suffragist’s case was Florence E. Allen. Florence Allen became the first women elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1920.  In 1917, the Ohio Assembly passed an amendment giving Ohio women the right to vote in Presidential elections. The anit-suffragists got the referendum on the ballot. The referendum lost by a very small margin and it provided the women the encouragement they needed to pursue their voting rights.

In1918, the Us House voted in favor of a suffrage amendment to the Constitution. In June 1919, the Senate passed the 19th Amendment. It now was sent to the states to ratify the amendment. Ohio was the 5th State to ratify it on June 16, 1919, and on August 18 the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was passed by Tennessee.

The work of these women took 52 years of mounting 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include women suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.

Authored by Mary Anne Christie