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Road Trip: Wayne County Suffragists

On August 26th, 2020, we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th  Amendment, which declared:  

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  

In Indiana, the fight for equality began back in 1851, when Amanda Way called for a women’s rights convention to be held in Dublin.  

One hundred and sixty-nine years after that convention, we’re looking back by taking a mini road trip to Wayne County where it all began. This trip highlights the history of the local women’s rights movement and the numerous Wayne County people who powered the suffrage movement. This mini-trip pays homage to the early suffrage automobile tours (read more here!) and the itinerary is inspired by the upcoming 2-part virtual event from Wayne County’s Levi & Catharine Coffin House featuring local suffrage history (register here!). 

You’ll be able to follow along on this road trip with me, Lydia Prebish, Indiana Humanities’ Public History Intern, as I take over the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Instagram on October 15. Or, you can make plans for your own mini trip using the itinerary below. The road trip is family-friendly, but you can pursue it solo or with members of your household for a masked-up, COVID-safe adventure.  

The Night Before: Pack Your Bags 

Get your road trip snacks, playlist, and to-go mug ready for the morning. Tomorrow, I’ll be listening to the playlist created for the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Block Party, as well as “And Nothing Less” from PRX and the National Park Service, a 7-part podcast commemorating the 19th Amendment hosted by Rosario Dawson and Retta (not sponsored, I just really enjoy it).  

The Day Of 

9 a.m. Hit the Road 

With hot “equali-tea” in hand (from Indianapolis’ Tea’s Me Café), it’s time to head to head to Dublin for our first stop of the day: the IHB Marker for Indiana’s First Woman’s Rights Convention.  

In January 1851, 23-year-old Winchester resident and Quaker Amanda Way proposed a meeting in her community to discuss women’s rights. Held October 14-15, 1851 in Dublin (Wayne County), attendees at the convention adopted resolutions for political, social, and financial rights for women. The following year, at the group formed the Indiana Woman’s Rights Association, widely considered to be one of the first state-level suffrage organizations. 

Way’s call for equality of the sexes was influenced by faith, a tenant of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who also supported other social issues such as temperance and abolition. An upcoming stop will highlight this larger history of the Quaker community, which was instrumental in strengthening the early woman’s rights movement in Indiana. 

P.S. Way was staunch temperance supporter, participating in armed “whiskey riots.” You can read more here.  

10 a.m. In-Cider Information 

Every road trip requires a few good snacks, and this one is no exception. On your way to the next location, stop by the oldest family-operated orchard in the state of Indiana for apple cider treats. Dougherty Orchards is open this fall Mon.-Sat. 10-6 and Sundays 12-6. Growing apples since 1883, today they also offer a petting zoo, baked goods, a winery, and craft beer (sorry Amanda Way!). While you’re enjoying your treat, take a moment to wonder if any local suffrage supporters enjoyed apples from this same orchard. Convince yourself as you drive to the next location that this stop is strongly tied to suffrage and not just an intern’s ploy to get a donut.

11 a.m. Visit the “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad” 

At the Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, you’ll learn about the home’s history as a site on the Underground Railroad, the prominent history of the Society of Friends in the area, and the role of Quakers in early American social movements.   

Quakers believe that all men and women are equal in the eyes of God. Many believed that they were to follow four main tenets: simplicity, truth, equality, and community. Their dedication and commitment to equality and community led many Quakers to become social activists, condemning slavery, promoting temperance, and fighting for women’s equality. Through their meeting-style worship, Quakers provided a wealth of experience in public speaking and organizing meetings, which proved invaluable in the ongoing struggle for equality. It’s not surprising that Quakers were involved in both the first national woman’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, as well as the local convention in Dublin. 

The Coffin House is hosting several events focused on the suffrage movement in Wayne County in the coming weeks, on Oct. 24Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.    

1:00p.m. Thistlethwaite/Seneca Falls + Lunch 

Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the first woman’s rights convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Mott was a Quaker and staunch abolitionist, and she served as a speaker promoting women’s rights throughout the country.  

During the convention, an estimated 300 women and men from around America collectively organized to fight for suffrage. They famously issued their Declaration of Sentiments, signed by 32 men and 68 women (including two Lydia’s!).  

While women were not always united in their goals, and the fight for women’s suffrage was complex and interwoven with issues of civil and political rights for all Americans, the efforts of these early women did lead to the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment. In their honor, a new statue was unveiled in Central Park featuring women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. You can hear from Coline Jenkins, Stanton’s great-great granddaughter and coordinator for new suffrage statue in New York City, in the Wayne Co. Suffrage Event later this month.  

2:00p.m. Dive into the Archives  

During the virtual, 2-part Wayne County Suffrage event, attendees will hear first person interpretation of Dr. Mary F. Thomas, played by Sue Kind of Richmond’s Morrison-Reeves Library. I was lucky enough to snag an opportunity to visit the library with Ms. Kind (with masks on, of course!) and see the archives highlighting Dr. Thomas’ incredible life.  

In addition to her impressive medical career, Dr. Mary F. Thomas (1816-1888) was very involved in working for women’s rights, beginning in 1854 when she heard Lucretia Mott preach at a Quaker meeting in Salem, Oho. She served as a member of the Indiana Woman’s Rights Society, edited the Lily (a woman’s rights paper started by Amelia Bloomer), and became the first woman to address the Indiana General Assembly when she presented a petition in 1859 calling for a married women’s property law and woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution.  

3:00p.m. Artistic Interpretation 

Founded in 1898, the Richmond Art Museum is the second oldest art association in Indiana. One of the early founders of RAM was William Dudley Foulke (1848-1935), a lawyer, politician, art patron, and reformer. He was a staunch abolitionist, outspoken against the Ku Klux Klan, and a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, serving from 1886-1890 as president of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Foulke was a major supporter of the Richmond Group of artists and was one of the founders of the Richmond Art Museum in 1898. He loaned paintings for early exhibitions and donated many works now in the museum’s permanent collection.  

Another prominent suffrage and art supporter was Esther Griffin White. She made her living as a journalist and wrote for several national periodicals as well as her own publication, called The Little Paper. An active member of the Women’s Franchise League, White worked  to ratify the 19th Amendment. Before the amendment was ratified, she applied in 1920 to have her name included on the ballot for delegate to the Republican State Convention.  While she could not even vote for herself, she was elected and became the only female delegate at the convention! In addition to her political and journalistic interests, Esther was a great lover of the arts and was a founding member of the Richmond Art Association alongside Mr. Foulke. Some of her favorite artists included noted locals such as George Baker and John Elwood Bundy, whose works can be seen on display at the Richmond Art Museum.  

You can visit the Richmond Art Museum from 10am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday to view part of his legacy. Through December 4, you can visit RAM Collects: Women Artists 1950-Present, and exhibit highlighting works by women artists in the museum’s permanent collection.  

5:00 p.m. Final Stop 

On our final stop of the road trip, we’re coming full circle and ending with an IHB plaque commemorating a prominent Wayne County Hoosier and supporter of women’s suffrage. George Washington Julian (1817-1899) was a reform-minded politician who advocated for abolition, equal rights and land reform. In 1889, a Kansas newspaper carried a poignant quote from Julian:  

“To deny the rights of women is to deny the rights of man. To argue the question of women’s rights is to argue the question of human rights.” 

His daughter, Grace Julian Clarke (1865-1938), was a women’s suffrage activist, newspaper journalist and author from Indiana. A marker honoring her legacy, organized by Jackie Swihart, a member of our speakers bureau, will be dedicated on November 7, 2020 in Indianapolis’ Irvington neighborhood. Stay tuned for more details! 

Lydia Prebish is a graduate student at IUPUI’s Public History master’s program. She is the 2020-2021 graduate public history intern at Indiana Humanities.