Women’s Suffrage and the Ohio Women’s Convention

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Suffragettes representing counties of Ohio.

The Ohioana Library Association was founded by Martha Kinney Cooper, First Lady of Ohio; the first book in Ohioana’s collection, History of the Western Reserve, was donated by its author, Harriet Taylor Upton; Ohioana’s first executive director was Florence Roberts Head, who helped Martha Cooper found the library. These are a few of the extraordinary women who are responsible for Ohioana’s existence thanks to their intelligence, expertise and dedication to the literature of Ohio. In 1929, the year of Ohioana’s founding, these women had had the right to vote for less than a decade.

Martha Kinney Cooper, Harriet Taylor Upton and Florence Roberts Head.

In 1919 the Senate passed the Nineteenth Amendment, prohibiting the states and federal government from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. In August of 1920, the amendment was ratified, and women’s suffrage was adopted nationally. Yet the struggle for women’s suffrage began nearly a century earlier, when women’s conventions began to be established in protest of the discrimination women were experiencing across the country. One of the most significant of these conventions, and the first that was organized statewide, was the Ohio Women’s Convention at Salem. The Convention met April 19-20, 1850 in Salem, Ohio, where more than 500 women were in attendance.

The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women’s Rights Convention Proceedings, complied and edited by Robert W. Audretsch, gives a history and full account of the proceedings of the Ohio Women’s Convention. An excerpt from the text reads,

“It is quite likely that the women who met in Salem for the convention did not realize the history they were making. It was the first women’s rights convention held west of the Alleghenies; it was very likely the second such convention held in the U.S.; and it is probably the first public meeting in the U.S. where the planners, participants and officers were exclusively women.”

Cover page of The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women’s Rights Convention Proceedings.

Conventions like these provided a place for women to meet and discuss some of the ways in which they were being discriminated against – such as the denial of the right to vote, unequal wages, unequal educational opportunities, and women not having control over their property. These meetings illuminated the fact that individual women were not alone in feeling they were being treated unfairly, and that they no longer wished to stand for it.

Cover of A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910, from Ohioana’s collection.

The convention in Salem is regarded as a pivotal point for women’s suffrage in Ohio, which would continue earnestly for the next 70 years until the vote was secured. It’s unfortunate that many of the woman who organized and attended the convention did not see the day that women’s right to vote was recognized nationally – however, their efforts were essential in starting the conversation and movement that resulted in the nationwide change.

Cover page and inside front page of The Ohio Woman Suffrage Movement.

 One of the leading voices in support of women’s suffrage in Ohio leading up to 1920 was none other than Harriet Taylor Upton, who would become Ohioana’s first contributing author. Upton was born December 17, 1853, and during her life served as a key organizer and first president of the Suffrage Association of Warren, member and treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association. More of her life and efforts are detailed in The Ohio Woman Suffrage Movement, a document compiled by Florence E. Allen and Mary Welles to detail the history of suffrage in the state of Ohio.

During this year, the 100th anniversary of the passing of the nineteenth amendment, we remember those who stood up against great odds in order to bring women closer to equality. The texts and images featured in this post, as well as many others regarding Ohio’s women’s suffrage movement, can be found in the Ohioana Library Association’s collection.

Anniversary of Ohio’s Man on the Moon

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Front page of the The Columbus Dispatch’s souvenir moonwalk section.
Envelope of The Columbus Dispatch’s souvenir moonwalk section.

Fifty years ago this summer the course of history was changed forever. On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon. This pivotal moment came after decades of preparation and planning and was a true feat of science and engineering – a remarkable achievement. The whole world watched on as the moment was punctuated by Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.

It was an iconic moment that, in a way, all started in Ohio. Before the race to the moon, spacesuits and zero gravity, Neil Armstrong was born in the small town of Wapakoneta in Northeast Ohio on August 5, 1930. Due to his father’s job as an auditor for the State of Ohio, the family moved often during Neil’s childhood and he also called the Ohio communities of Warren, Jefferson, St. Marys and Upper Sandusky his home. By the 1940s the family had returned to Wapakoneta, where Armstrong attended high school and developed a passion for flying. At the age of 16t he earned his pilot’s license in advance even of being issued a driver’s license, practicing flight in the grassy airfields surrounding Wapakoneta. After high school, he went on to college at Purdue University and later joined the navy.

Biography of Neil Armstrong published by the State of Ohio.

After graduation and his service, Armstrong began his career in NASA at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland. From there he held numerous other jobs and responsibilities at NASA, often acting as a test pilot, before eventually being selected for astronaut training in 1962. He served as a backup pilot on Gemini missions 5 and 11 and went to space for the first time as command pilot on Gemini 8. In 1968, Armstrong was offered the post of commander on Apollo 11, along with Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Commander Module Pilot Michael Collins. Less than a year later they would be the first humans to successfully land on the moon.

Articles from the Citizen Journal from July 1969 introducing the seven Ohioans who worked on the Apollo Program and the proposal of an Armstrong related museum in Wapakoneta.

With his accomplishments, Armstrong joined the leagues of other notable Ohioans involved in advancements in flight and space exploration. Col. John Glen, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Orville and Wilbur Wright are just a few air and space pioneers that Ohio claims.

Article from The Dispatch from July 1969 describing the ways in which Armstrong’s hometown was preparing for the big day.

In the days and weeks surrounding the Apollo 11 launch and first moonwalk, it seems natural that Ohioans across the state took a special interest in the event. This is apparent in the publications from the time such as The Columbus Dispatch and The Cincinnati Enquirer. Many newspaper articles and clippings pertaining to the event can be found in Ohioana’s collection. Articles covered all aspects of the moon mission from the astronaut’s daily routines while in space, to reports of how Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta was preparing for the momentous occasion.

There was no one prouder of Neil Armstrong that day than the family, friends and residents back in his hometown of Wapakoneta – or Wapak, as it’s known in the region. Mrs. Grover Crites, wife of Armstrong’s high school math and science teacher, was quoted saying, “There won’t be a dark house in the town of Wapak the night Neil walks on the moon.” Days before the moon mission, The Columbus Dispatch reported that “All 7,000 residents of Wapak … are excited, proud and concerned”. Two years later, in 1971, a museum dedicated to Neil Armstrong was opened in the town thanks to the help of members of the community and Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. You can visit the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta today to see artifacts from Armstrong’s Apollo 11 and Gemini 8 missions. The museum, as well as the entire town of Wapakoneta, is holding celebrations of the moon landing anniversary all year. For more information visit: https://www.firstonthemoon.org/.

The anniversary of the moonwalk was celebrated everywhere this year – including in the 2019 Ohio State Fair’s annual butter sculpture depicting Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin.

All images courtesy of Ohioana’s collection.