Nov 12 2018

Ohio Women's Voting Rights Struggle

The struggle for women rights was first noted during the American Revolution but it did not come to recognition until the Seneca Falls, New York Women’s Convention in 1848. Then the suffrage 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 it then took on a life of its own with a meeting held in Akron in 1851. Frances Dana Barker Gage organized the Akron convention that escalated the fight for women’s rights and she led the next major National Woman’s Rights Convention held in Cleveland in 1853. Martha Coffin Wright presided over the 1855 women’s rights convention held in Cincinnati.

By 1869 the American Suffrage Association formed by Lucy Stone and other conservative activists who 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 elections. Their votes were rejected. Ohio women who actively participated in this reform movement included Lucy Stone and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Woman 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 got the right to vote in municipal elections. The lead attorney for the suffragist case was Florence E. Allen. Florence Allen became the first woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1920.  In 1917; the Ohio General Assembly passed an amendment giving Ohio women the right to vote in presidential elections. The anti-suffragists got the referendum on the ballot. The referendum lost by a very small margin, but it provided the women the encouragement that they needed to pursue their voting rights.

In 1918 the US House of Representatives 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.  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 woman suffrage planks in party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.

The first six women elected to the Ohio Legislature in 1922 were:
Nettie Mackenzie Clapp, Cleveland; Lulu Thomas Gleason, Lucas County; Nettie Bromley Loughead, Cincinnati; Adelaide Sterling Ott, Youngstown; May Martin Van Wye, Cincinnati; and Maude Comstock Waitt, Cleveland.  All of these women were Republicans.

Written by: Mary Anne Christie
Ohio women voting rights struggle