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Ohio Women in Politics

The same year Elizabeth Cady Stanton read the Declaration at the Seneca Falls Convention, a women’s group was formed on the state-level to demand suffrage for Ohio women. The group was formed in Mentor, Oh and was called The Universal Peace Society because its members believed woman’s suffrage was a means of abolishing warfare.

Woman's suffrage headquarters in Cleveland, 1912.Frances Jennings Casement of Painesville, Ohio, was the organizer of the Equal Rights Association, an organization that had grown so large by 1884, members were invited to attend the first Annual Convention of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association. Casement made sure the group discussed important issues like equal voting rights, equal rights for women in the work place and rights for women during divorce.

Harriet Taylor Upton, of Warren, was another Ohioan who was pivotal to the women’s suffrage movement. In 1890 she joined the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association and worked with Susan B. Anthony. While in the NAWSA, Upton served as press secretary, auditor, and treasurer. In 1903, she was in charge of moving the NAWSA national headquarters to Warren, Ohio where it stayed until 1909. Upton later became the first woman vice-chair of the Republican National Executive Committee in 1920. She was appointed manager of ‘women’s work’ in Senator Warren Harding’s presidential campaign of 1920. And in 1928, she was appointed by Ohio Governor Cooper as a special representative of the Welfare Department, becoming the first woman to be assigned to such duty. Through this position she was instrumental in promoting several social changes, including child labor laws and prison reform.

Ohio has had ten women represent Ohio in the US House of Representatives since 1940 when Frances Payne Bolton was the first woman from our state to serve there. Frances completed her husband’s term as a Republican Congressman of the 22nd Ohio District upon his death in 1939. She won the seat on her own accord in 1940 and while serving in the seat she made nursing and foreign affairs her top priorities. She also focused on social security, safety, ecology, consumer protection, and youth problems.

We’ve had two women serve as our state auditor, including Mary Taylor who serves currently and Betty Montgomery who was the first women to serve as Ohio State Auditor and later became the first woman to serve as Ohio’s Attorney General in 1990. As Attorney General, she was an outspoken supporter of victims’ rights and lobbied the state legislature and governor to increase funding to local law enforcement agencies. She also worked to establish a DNA database to help catch and convict repeat criminals.

Jennifer Brunner became Ohio’s first and only woman to hold the office of Secretary of State in January 2007.

There have been three women Lieutenant Governor’s in Ohio’s history. In 1994, Nancy P. Hollister of Marietta, OH became the first. She even served as governor for 11 days when Gov. Voinovich took his U.S. Senate seat and his successor, Bob Taft, had not yet been sworn in.

Representatives of County suffrage organizations demonstrate on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse, 7/30/1914.The first women to serve in the Ohio General Assembly came in the 1923-1924 session of the Ohio Legislature, shortly after women gained the right to vote in Ohio. These six women were: Nettie McKenzie Clapp, Lulu Thomas Gleason, Adelaide Sterling Ott, Mary Martin Van Wye, Nettie Bromley Loughead, and Maude Comstock Waitt.

In 1995, Jo Ann Davidson, a long-time advocate for welfare reform, was elected as the first woman Speaker of the House in Ohio.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull of Homer, Ohio, though she could not vote, was the first woman to run for president of the United States and probably one of the most controversial people of her time. She announced her candidacy on April 2, 1870 and argued that women’s suffrage was already protected by the Constitution because the existing amendments about voting and citizenship did not specify gender. Therefore, women, as citizens, should be allowed to vote. She advocated for things that we take for granted today such as the 8-hour workday, graduated income tax, social welfare programs, and profit sharing.

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