Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Local Footnote on Woman Suffrage

Note: Gossips is on the hunt for information about the origin of Oakdale Lake, which, as we discovered recently, is an artificial lake that was created in 1915. As always happens during such a search, many things of interest, irrelevant to the purpose at hand, are stumbled upon along the way, and it is one of those chance finds that inspires this post.    

New York can be thought of as the birthplace of woman suffrage. The Seneca Falls Convention, held in July 1848, was the first women's rights convention ever to be held in the United States. Women won the right to vote in New York three years before the 19th Amendment, which gave women throughout the country the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. 

Hudson played its own part in the struggle for woman suffrage. Readers will recall that when General Rosalie Jones and her army of suffragettes made their epic march from New York City to Albany in December 1912, they stopped to spend Christmas in Hudson, and after the mission had been accomplished, General Jones returned to Hudson, as the guest of Mrs. Morgan Jones, "to organize suffragettes in this district." (Before their marriage, Mrs. Morgan Jones's husband built his Jacobean and Dutch inspired his dream house at 317 Allen Street).

Not only suffragists visited Hudson. Our little city attracted prominent anti-suffragists as well. On May 18, 1915--six months before a statewide referendum on woman suffrage was defeated--this story appeared on the front page of the Hudson Register.


Lucy Price, who worked as a newspaper reporter in Cleveland, was reportedly the youngest and one of the most effective crusaders against suffrage. The Ultimate History Project recounts her achievements: "When Ohio was adopting a new constitution in 1913, giving voters the opportunity to include a clause that would give women the vote, [Price] handled the fight. She presented her side so well that suffrage was defeated in a conclusive manner. Like military leaders going from one battlefront to another, Lucy Price and others traveled the country voicing their opinions." In the spring of 1915, Price was in New York, working to defeat the 1915 referendum on woman suffrage.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage officially formed in 1911 and was headquartered in New York City. The "antis" believed that women were the equals of men but saw the role of women to be in philanthropy and social betterment. In a letter to the New York Times, dated February 11, 1915, Alice Chittenden wrote: "Opposition to woman suffrage is not merely an effort on the part of a few women to keep other women from voting, as is sometimes foolishly said, but that it is based upon principles which are so fundamental that women have organized a movement which is daily growing in strength, and which is directed wholly against the enfranchisement of their sex. The Woman Suffrage Movement is, in fact, the only woman's movement in history which women themselves have banded together to oppose one another."

The women who opposed suffrage believed that by voting and becoming involved in politics, they would surrender the moral high ground they claimed, so it is interesting to see who were the "vice presidents" for the anti-suffrage meeting in Hudson. All of them were men.

The group included a judge and seven lawyers, five doctors, eight merchants, two druggists, a cigar manufacturer and a pork packer, two of the principals of the Gifford-Wood Company, two bankers, the publisher and the assistant editor of the Columbia Republican, one of the sons of the brewery C. H. Evans & Sons, one of the developers who created Oakdale Lake, and the minister of the First Presbyterian Church. One wonders how their wives felt about getting the vote. 

1 comment:

  1. No idea how this relates other than coincidentally, but not long ago I found an old brick in our waterfront park which bore the inscription "Everhard Co., Mascillon" [sic].

    The brick originated in the quarry/brickyard of H.H. Everhard (b. 1837), of Massillon, Ohio, whose wife, Caroline McCullough (b. 1843), was a prominent 19th c. suffragist.

    As the President of the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association (1891), and co-founder of the Equal Rights Association of Canton, Ohio, McCullough would have been well known to her adversary Lucy Price, of Cleveland.

    Caroline McCullough was also a student of Goethe's teachings, and co-founded the Massillon Humane Society.

    So what is an Everhard brick doing at our waterfront? Like bringing coal to Newcastle!