The Women’s Rights Movement Goes Back To The Late 1800s In Ohio

Party meeting with Sen. Harding at his home in Marion, Ohio. via Library of Congress

When it comes to equal rights for women, movements throughout Ohio have long been fighting the good fight. After the end of the Civil War women across the 17th state began to organize. Their objective was clear: To be afforded the same rights as their male counterparts, regardless of race.

Intersectional feminism may seem like a 21st century topic, but it’s a comforting thought to know that nearly 150 years ago, the women of Ohio were already thinking about equality outside the constraints of race. The Ohio suffrage movements were some of the earliest in the country to include women of color. Not just in their conversation, but in their activism.

“Let Ohio Women Vote.” The postcard was sent from Columbus, Ohio by Elizabeth J. House to Mrs. C. L. Martzolff in Athens, Ohio, 1915. via Ohio History Connection, Woman’s Suffrage Postcard Collection

As time passed, over 31 organizations emerged around Ohio, operating within their own communities and counties to work on women’s rights. In the spring of 1885, the official, statewide organization, the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association was formed in Painesville, Ohio. Choosing to set partisan politics aside, OWSA focused solely on obtaining the right to vote for women at a local and state level.

As the turn of the century came, women became more energized. In 1912, an official amendment was proposed to the State of Ohio constitution to allow women to vote. It was defeated by 336,875 male voters, 57.46% of eligible voters at that time. The women of Ohio tried again in 1914, but the measure was again shot down, this time receiving support from less than 40% of eligible voters. Finally, in 1923, three years after the Federal Constitution was amended, the women of Ohio finally got what they had been working so hard for. The right to vote.

We’ve come a long way since the white parasol parades. But equal rights don’t stop with voting. Feminism is a scary word for some people, so I’m going to break it down here for you, in a way that I think everyone can understand. Women make up half of the world’s population. We’re in your homes, we do your taxes, we teach your children, we save lives, we run businesses. We come in many colors, religions, shapes and sizes. We can be kind, creative, compassionate, loud, rude, proud or a combination of all of the above. We are people. We are human beings who have just as much of a right to pursue our dreams as the next guy.

Woman suffrage headquarters in Upper Euclid Avenue, Cleveland–A. (at extreme right) is Miss Belle Sherwin, President, National League of Women Voters; B. is Judge Florence E. Allen (holding the flag); C. is Mrs. Malcolm McBride via Library of Congress

To me, feminism isn’t about holding anyone down. It’s about lifting every single human being up. I want to live in a world where a man can communicate his insecurities and a woman can make power plays. To me, feminism is a balance.

I’m proud to uphold the beliefs shared by the women of Ohio over 150 years ago, that women deserve equality. We have the right to vote, but the work is far from over. Women of color in Ohio in particular face an uphill battle. Black Ohioans make up 14.3 % of our population, and yet 34% pregnancy-related deaths in the state occurred among Black women giving birth. Asian students at the Ohio State University shared concerns about the rise of anti-Asian prejudice since the beginning of the pandemic here in Ohio. Latina women here in the Buckeye State Ohio only earn on average $.61 for every dollar a man earns.

It’s overwhelming when you really sit with the issues facing our society today, but there’s good news on the horizon yet. We can harness the power of that vote that they fought for to help build a more equitable Ohio for all of us. We can run for office. We can champion candidates who actually want to help close the wage-gap and address other inequalities. We can make the world a better place for generations of women to come and we can do it together.

    A daily Columbus email you'll actually love.

    Every morning we compile the best of Columbus news & events and deliver it in a quick 5 minute read that sets you up with everything you need to be a well informed Columbusian. Columbusite. Cbussian? Whatever, give it a try, you'll love it.

    You have Successfully Subscribed!