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March 30, 2017

Celebrating Women’s History Month - Equal Suffrage League on campus

"Love Me, Love My Vote"
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-so reads a valentine taken from the college scrapbook of Helen H. Stevens, class of 1919, who served as president of the Equal Suffrage League in 1917-1918.

The Equal Suffrage Chapter of the College for Women was re-established on the campus in the 1915-1916 academic year. According to sources, it had existed a few years earlier but the Archives could not confirm the date. The chapter was reorganized after Emma Maud Perkins called for a meeting of students interested in equal suffrage.

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Emma Perkins was Woods Professor of Latin. A graduate of Vassar College, she moved to Cleveland in 1879 and taught at Central High School. She came to WRU in 1892 as associate professor of Latin at the College for Women. Her widowed mother, Sarah M. Perkins, was a pioneer women’s suffrage worker and lived with her daughter.

The purpose of the Suffrage League was “to promote equal suffrage sentiment among the college women.” The first two years the chapter built up its membership and held meetings where they studied various phases of the suffrage movement. By the 1917-1918 academic year, membership numbered over 50. The League became an auxiliary to the Cleveland Suffrage Party. They held monthly open meetings. Here is a summary of the League activity for the 1917-1918 year taken from the yearbook:

“In October the successful membership campaign was concluded with a tea in Haydn at which Miss Smith and Oliver Emerson spoke. In November there was conducted a mock campaign at the end of which the college voted for or against the Reynold Bill, which provided for Presidential Suffrage for Ohio women. The pleasing result of the election was 308 for and 13 against the Bill.


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Election voting notice and results

"During the campaign we had the pleasure of hearing, at a series of noon meetings in Haydn, Miss Myers, Professor Arbuthnot, Mr. Moley and Mrs. Roger Perkins. In January the League oversubscribed its pledge to the Cleveland party at a meeting led by Felice Crowl. In February Miss Grace Treat talked on ‘The Question in Washington.’ In April the League conducted one of the monthly sing-outs. The annual meeting and election took place in May.”

After decades of advocacy by countless activists, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified 8/18/1920 giving women the right to vote. Our activist women took their new right seriously, forming the League of Women Voters shortly thereafter. The Cleveland League was formed in 1920 and the League of Women Voters chapter at the College for Women was organized in October 1921 by alumna Florence Allen.

We would love to celebrate all women involved in the Equal Suffrage League and have identified the following to date:

Suffrage meeting announcement, 5/22/1919
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1915/1916 officers:
Julia Harmon, president
Mildred Merkel, vice-president
Marie Grosse, secretary
Margaret Barker, treasurer
Elsie McGee, Eva Smill, and Myra Thwing, directors.

1916/1917 officers:
Eva Smill, president
Mildred Merkel, vice-president
Margaret Barker, secretary
Margaret Hamilton, Julia Harmon, Grace Evans, directors

1917/1918 officers:
Helen H. Stevens, president
Margaret Barker, vice-president
Jeannette Dall, secretary
Henrietta Gates, treasurer
Christena Myers, Lela Draper, Adelaide Zeile, Ruth Hillyer, directors

See past Women’s History Month posts from 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

Posted by hxy2 at March 30, 2017 05:37 PM

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