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Ohio Women of Note

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Harriet Taylor Upton
Suffragette with Charm
by Patricia W. Sperling

Throughout the long battle for woman's suffrage, Harriet, who was born in Ravenna, Ohio, on December 17, 1853, strove with a sense of humor. She especially enjoyed making speeches, and her listeners enjoyed her humorous, optimistic remarks. She said, "I know of no joy such as making tired, bored audiences sit up, smile, and burst into laughter."

Moving to Warren, Ohio, at the age of seven, Harriet attained her first woman's suffrage office as president of a club of 10 women. Throughout the suffrage struggle, her husband, George Upton, to whom she was married for 39 years, gave her "constant encouragement."

In 1892 Harriet was named treasurer of the National Woman's Suffrage Association, and served in that office for 15 years. She also remained active in the Ohio movement and on its executive committee for 20 years. In 1898 she became the first woman to be elected to the Warren School Board, serving for 15 years, at one point as president.

In 1920 Ohio Republican Women elected her chairman. Then she was chosen vice chairman of the National Republican Executive Committee, another "first." Harriet Taylor Upton was the first woman in the United States to hold such a position in any political party.

After women voters were enfranchised, Harriet helped shape policy toward them. From 1918 until her retirement in 1924, she served as Republican National Committeewoman, once running for Congress, and taking defeat with her usual good-humored equanimity.

Harriet Taylor Upton contributed greatly to the status of women. In addition, she added to literature, writing a number of children's stories and several books: A History of the Western Reserve; The Early Presidents, Their Wives and Children; and, in 1909, a two-volume History of Trumbull County, still considered one of the best records of the early days. She died on November 2, 1945, after having known every president of the 1900s, her charm and keen sense of humor intact.

This article was first published in the 1974 Ohioana Year Book. At the time, Patricia W. Sperling was the librarian at the Ohioana Library.


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