Women have played an important part in the history of Ohio. The first permanent white women settlers arrived in the Northwest Territory in 1788, and contributed profoundly to the survival of the earliest settlements. As the settlements grew into communities, women helped develop churches and schools. Women also played a part in working for social justice. Advocate Lucy Stone and author Harriet Beecher Stowe changed not just Ohio, but the nation through their work for the abolitionist movement. Many Ohio women in the mid-19th Century pursued social equality with men.
Women grew closer to social equality throughout the 20th Century, most notably through gaining the right to vote in 1920. Women have also served Ohio in all branches of government; being elected to seats in the General Assembly, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the offices of Attorney General, Auditor of State, Secretary of State and Treasurer of State.
A little more than half (51.1%) of the state’s population is female. Around the state, 4.6 million women over the age of 16 are part of Ohio’s workforce. There are about 230,000 women-owned businesses in Ohio, employing more than 260,000 people and generating $32.2 billion in revenue.
Ohio women have been trailblazers in all walks of life. Some famous Ohio women include:
Annie Oakley, an expert sharpshooter who traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, was born in Darke County in 1860. Oakley gained fame around the world because of her skills, and continued to set records in her 60s.
Writer and activist Gloria Steinem was born in Toledo. After graduating from Smith College, Steinem started a career in journalism, where she became a respected investigative reporter. Steinem was one of the founders of both New York and Ms. Magazines. As the editor of New York, Steinem promoted social activism and equality for women.
Gertrude Walton Donahey was born in Tuscarawas County in 1908. In 1970, she became the first woman to be elected to a statewide office when the voters of Ohio made her Treasurer of State. Donahey served as Treasurer until 1983 and was voted president of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers.
Dayton native Erma Bombeck wrote “At Wit’s End,” a newspaper column that ran for more than 30 years. Bombeck graduated from the University of Dayton and became a reporter and author. After marrying her college sweetheart, she dedicated her life to her family but later returned to journalism, with her home life as the inspiration for her columns and books.
Aviator Jerrie Mock, who was born in Newark in 1925, holds many records and firsts in the air. In 1964, she flew her Cessna 180, the Sprit of Columbus around the world, a trip that took 29 days. Mock was the first woman to pilot an aircraft on a solo trip around the world, and the first woman to fly around the world in a single-engine plane.
Cleveland attorney Florence Ellinwood Allen was instrumental in breaking barriers for women. Allen was the first woman to hold the office of Assistant County Prosecutor, the first woman elected to a Court of Common Pleas, and when she was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1922, she became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of any state. In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, the first appointment of a woman to any federal bench of general jurisdiction. She eventually became the chief judge of that court and served in that capacity until her retirement in 1959.