Three new historical markers in Cincinnati should draw attention to some lesser-known stories among locals women who helped gain the right to vote a little over a century ago.
They are among 250 markers nationwide along the National Women’s Vote Trailsponsored by the National Collaboration for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS) and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, which recognize and honor the work of the thousands of women who have contributed to the suffrage movement.
It took more than 70 years of campaigning for women to reach the voting booth, from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
“When it comes to women’s rights and suffrage in the early days of the movement, there are so many women who have been forgotten and who we need to bring back. We need to remember them,” Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said at the marker’s dedication, held at the Fifth Third Center on March 25.
Cincinnati markers honor suffragist Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell (located at 2900 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, near the Giminetti Bakery Company); journalist and teacher Margaret V. Longley and her husband, Elias (on Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth, Downtown); and artist Cornelia Cassady Davis (up the Elsinore Steps near the Cincinnati Art Museum, Eden Park).
The presenters repeatedly noted that “Ohio played a crucial but forgotten role in the fight for women’s suffrage”, as well as in pushing for equal rights and the abolition of slavery.
“We might not know this from our history lessons in school, but we’re going to have to add this to our history books,” Lemon Kearney said.
“Untapped and inspiring stories”
Local researcher Katherine Durack, a retired faculty member from the University of Miami, did the first in-depth research on these women that lifted them from the dust of history.
“It seemed like there was no noise (before) the centenary of women’s suffrage. So, I started shaking the cages, reaching out to people,” she said. Initially, I thought I would find the person who knows Ohio history and that would be awesome, and I never found that person. Along the way, I have been so captivated and fascinated by the stories we have to tell in Cincinnati but also across the state.
There are several small volumes on the history of women’s suffrage in Ohio, she said, but something was needed to draw more attention to the topic.
“What I’ve discovered is that there’s this wealth of untapped, inspiring stories of people who have literally dedicated their entire lives to this cause,” she said.
Durack documented about 30 Ohio locations relevant to the suffrage movement on a Google map, which she shared with the NCWHS. They chose to add markers at three of these sites in Cincinnati for the trail. The markers serve as an introduction, to pique your curiosity to learn more.
equality in marriage
“Back then, they called me Lucy Stoner,” Christina Hartlieb, executive director of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, told the crowd at the marker’s dedication. “This is what women in the late 1800s were referred to when they kept their birth name even after marriage.”
Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell, were among the best suffragettes and abolitionists. She helped organize national conventions for women’s rights throughout the 1850s. The Blackwell family lived two streets from Harriet Beecher Stowe. Henry’s sister, Elizabeth Blackwell, was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the USA.
Hartlieb said Lucy and her husband’s marriage was “markedly unconventional for its time”. They signed a prenuptial agreement that outlined “how Lucy would keep her last name, keep her own money, and keep, uh, control over procreation,” Hartlieb said.
The couple, who met in 1850 at his hardware store – Coombs, Ryland and Blackwell’s on Main Street in Cincinnati – were collaborators and activists. Together they ran the American Women’s Suffrage Association and edited the Women’s Journal. They both spoke at the Eighth National Convention on the Rights of Women, held in Cincinnati at Smith & Nixon’s Hall on West Fourth Street, October 17–18, 1855.
When a convention heckler called the speakers “a few disappointed women”, Lucy Stone responded with one of her most notable speeches, agreeing that she was “a disappointed woman”. “In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women. It will be my life’s business to deepen this disappointment in every woman’s heart until she no longer bows to her.
Typing lessons and women’s rights
Margaret Longley and her husband, Elias, were both journalists and teachers who focused on their particular passions – shorthand and typing. They published Phonetic Magazine and a newspaper called Type of the Times from their offices in the Apollo Building, formerly at the northwest corner of Fifth and Walnut streets.
In addition to information and lessons, they also printed articles advocating abolition, equal rights and women’s suffrage in their publications.
Elias was a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial and Cincinnati Gazette and did shorthand reporting on Abraham Lincoln’s speech at the Burnet House in 1861 and Civil War-era court reporting.
Margaret challenged restrictions on women’s roles in society in the 19th century. She learned typesetting, one of the few skilled jobs available to women in printing, but later progressed. She was editor of Woman’s Advocate magazine and court reporter for the Cincinnati Tagliche Abend-Post, a German-language newspaper.
In 1882 she founded her own school, Longley’s Shorthand and Typewriting Institute, and published a typing manual, “Type-Writer Lessons, for the Use of Teachers and Learners, Adapted to Remington’s Perfected Type-Writers”. The book featured his innovation of eight-finger typing and using the thumb for the spacebar, known as touch typing, on the QWERTY keyboard.
Among the practical phrases she included in her typing manual were subversive phrases such as “no man can take his place” and “women’s right to vote”.
“Let the Women of Ohio Vote”
Cornelia Cassady Davis was an artist trained at the Cincinnati Academy of Arts, where she studied with Frank Duveneck. Her paintings were exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. She was known for her paintings depicting the Navajo and Hopi peoples in New Mexico and Arizona.
Davis was a member of the Woman’s Art Club of Cincinnati, along with artists Dixie Selden and Elizabeth Nourse, and in 1913 became the first woman admitted to the all-male Cincinnati Art Club Life (Figure Drawing) course.
It would be another 66 years before women were offered membership in the club.
Notably, Davis created the iconic “Let Ohio Women Vote” poster used by the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association for the 1912 campaign to secure a state constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage.
The image, which incorporates the sun, hills and wheat elements of the Ohio state emblem, is well known, but despite its name at the bottom of the poster, the artist is rarely recognized for his contribution. .
This changes with the National Votes for Women Trail marker.
“Much of this story, I did not know. So there are a lot of things that would be overlooked without having markers like this,” Lemon Kearney said.