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Museum on Main Street
This front page of this exhibit features WCHS artifacts


We went to the collection to select dresses, hats and more for the story of what it might have been like for a young lady living  here in  the early 1900s.

Local Leaders and Their Stories

By 1900, Michigan women who owned property could vote on some bond issues and in school-related elections. But there were no local or state organizations devoted to the cause of votes for women.


On October 10, 1910, State organizer Mrs. Mary L. Doe came to Ann Arbor to organize local association which became known as the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association (AAESA).  The day before the meeting the Ann Arbor Women’s Club had voted against women’s rights 12-17 which meant that their delegates at the next convention would be required to vote no. 


Through the efforts of Mrs. Florence Wilson Signor the AAESA was formed and she was elected Vice-President at the first meeting.  30-40 women attended that first meeting at the home of Mrs. Ann Wilson who had led the fight to get equal rights into the 1908 constitutional convention.  The proposal had been voted down out of fear that male voters would reject the whole constitution if women’s right to vote was a part of it.  Officers and directors were elected and a plan of action began to form. 


On December 11, 1911, the University of Michigan Equal Suffrage Club was founded. The officers and directors were wives of university professors, including Mrs. V.C. Vaughn as Vice President, Mrs. J. E. Reighard as Treasurer.  One month later, on January 18, 1912, they merged with the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association with the idea that they could accomplish more by working together.  New officers and directors were elected at the February 24th meeting of the AAESA with Mrs. V.C. Vaughn and Mary Hinsdale as vice presidents, Myra Jordan as a director. The directors list also included a number of men, including Dr. V. C. Vaughn,  Professor S.A. Whitney and Dr. A. W. Stalker.  Meetings were held at various homes or at larger venues if there was an important speaker.

By 1900 Michigan women over 21 who owned property assessed for school taxes could vote.  A special election held on January 30 included a school district bond of $20,000 for a new building in the 7th ward was approved.  Over 70 women, not counting new enrollments had voted.  Another bond for $600,000 to buy and improve Ann Arbor Water Company was defeated by less than 3 votes.  On that same day voters in Lodi Township approved a school bond of $1,350 by one vote—thought to be a woman voter.   Who said women were too busy taking care of their home and children were too busy to vote?


Young Women on UM Campus  Officers of the Michigan League for 1911-12  (incl. Edna Thuner, Grace Striebert, Florence Swinton, Agnes Delano, Stella Roth, Marguerite Stevens)

Inspired by a National Movement, Local Women Work for Change

The Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association brought nationally and internationally-known suffragettes to town and members joined in local and national actions. Local activists included Jennie Buell, Maria Peel, Mary Hinsdale, Mrs. V.C. Vaughan, and Sarah Plummer. 


One of the first well-known suffragettes to visit Ann Arbor was Sylvia Pankhurst.  The day before her speech on March 1, 1912, 124 women, including her mother Emmeline, were arrested in London for smashing windows in businesses and shops. Miss Pankhurst spoke about the suffragette movement in England and why they used violence to get the attention of the government.  She said they would not give up until women get the vote and felt that the time was getting near. It should be noted that the disorderly events in America were by the anti-suffragettes.


In April 1912 Mrs. Beatrice Forbes Robertson Hale, an actress and active suffragette in England who moved to New York in 1907 was the next well-known person to come to Ann Arbor. In her speech she stated that men had invented machinery that did away with the need for so much women’s work such as spinning and candle making that she now had time for other things including voting. Mrs. Forbes talked about the three classes of women: Women of wealth who developed charities and philanthropy that men immediately took over; women at home who were concerned about sanitary conditions, schools, playgrounds, and other things affecting their families and working women who had to deal with sexual harassment, poor working conditions, unequal pay, and unequal opportunities.


The Ypsilanti Equal Suffrage Association was formed in June, 1912 by Julia Trowbridge, wife of Daniel Quirk Jr., to support the state-wide male vote on women’s suffrage that November. Among their many activities were public rallies in Recreation Park like this one in 1912.


Later that year the Washtenaw Equal Suffrage Association was formed, uniting Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti activists. The Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) Equal Suffrage Association and Men’s College Equal Suffrage joined the county-wide association as well.

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The Michigan Equal Suffrage Association (MESA) met in Ann Arbor on April 18, 1912 to plan the state campaign.  Local suffrage groups from around the state attended as well as members of Modern Maccabees, Federation of Woman’s Clubs and the Michigan State Grange.  They decided that rather than spend their money on torchlight parades and fireworks, they would buy motor cars to tour the state.  The women could stop and speak from the car, distribute literature and give lectures at local meetings.  It was noted that they had received a check for $25.00 from J. F. Trombley of Brooklyn, MA.


October 1912 was a busy month for the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association. The women held teas in various homes, sponsored speakers both at the teas and in larger venues and organized cake and candy sales to raise money.

Jane Addams was an officer in the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and pro-suffrage columnist. She was also among the founders of the NAACP(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Prior to her appearance in Ann Arbor, members placed cards announcing her lecture.  Of 100 businesses approached to display the card, only 2 voiced anti-suffrage opinions—felt a woman’s place is in the home and if move away from home wife would spend money on dresses, indulge in their vanity and avoid proper functions at home—but all agreed to display the cards advertising her speech at the Whitney Theater on October 9. Her speech dealt with the modern industrial and social conditions of women and the necessity for women to be able to vote.


At the end of October the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association opened a physical headquarters at 205 E. Washington.  They had literature available in both English and German.  They sent letters to everyone in Washtenaw County asking them to consider a yes vote.  When someone discovered that letters and slides had been sent to movie theaters saying that if women got the vote, they would put the theaters out of business, a committee went to the theater to protest and the manager agreed not to show the slides which showed a woman carrying child and begging men to keep politics out of the home. 


Gallery of Local Suffrage Ephemera
Ballots, Amendments and Weather Confuse Voters

The Suffrage initiative failed in the November 1912 election although it passed in Ann Arbor.  The Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association immediately began planning for the next campaign. The amendment was again submitted in the April 7, 1913 spring election. Due to bad weather and many amendments which confused voters and caused delays, it was again defeated.


There were five state constitution amendments and a good roads bond issue.  Each of the six proposals was on a separate sheet of paper resulting in many people only voting on certain issues. In Detroit all the amendments except suffrage carried. In Ann Arbor only the Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Wards voted for suffrage. In 1913, there were fewer yesses than in the 1912 fall election.

An article in the Ann Arbor Daily Times on April 19, 1913 presented the following pro-suffrage arguments:

•When women vote, family representation is doubled.

•There is an increase in moral vote because only 2% of women are criminals.

•Education fits women for voting, more girls than boys graduate from high school.

•Women are vitally interested in the questions of sanitation, pure food, proper control of penal institutes and asylums, social purity and child labor.

•Women must pay taxes and obey the law without representation.

The organizations—local and national— continued the fight through the next years and in November 1918 Michigan voters approved the suffrage amendment allowing women to vote for statewide officers in 1919.  The National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on June 5, 1920 and became law on August 26.  Women across the country voted in their first Presidential election on November 2, 1920.

 Local Women and Men, Work Together for Women's Suffrage
Katharine Dexter McCormick


(pictured on the left) was born on August 27, 1875, in Dexter, Michigan, in her grandparents' mansion, Gordon Hall. She was the second woman to attend  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the first woman to graduate with a degree in science, majoring in biology.

Her great grandfather, Samuel Dexter, had served in the cabinets of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; her grandfather was one of the founders of the University of Michigan; and her father was a distinguished attorney. Before her marriage, Katharine had planned to go to medical school.

Katharine became vice president and treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and funded the association's publication the Woman's Journal. As an officer  and member, McCormick helped achieve the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. In 1919, she helped Carrie Chapman Catt found the League of Women Voters. As its first vice president, she educated women in the political process and worked to promote their political power.

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Maria Peel


(1862-1943)  Mrs. Peel was an insurance agent and once served as the President of the Ann Arbor Business and Professional Women’s Club. She was a member of the board of directors of the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association in 1910, the year it was founded, and served as corresponding secretary in 1912.  Mrs. Peel was also an active member of the Ann Arbor Woman’s Club and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), serving as Vice President in 1912, and was Attendance Officer for the Ann Arbor School Board for the school year 1917-18.  


As a probation officer for the Federation of Charities, a county truant officer and a ‘city visitor’ (welfare checks), she was deeply committed to the welfare of children. She felt that dance halls were causing delinquency and that they should be regulated and that children should not be going to movies at night.  Once she saw the improvements on home life brought about by the state prohibition law, she encouraged women to vote for the national Prohibition amendment.

Jennie Buell


(1895-1994) Miss Buell was from Ann Arbor Township was a member of the board representing the Michigan State Grange—the only State Grange to campaign actively for women’s rights.  Her work with the Grange was not only recognized state-wide but also nationally.


Miss Buell gave lectures on suffrage and advocated for farmers.  Even though the amendment failed to pass that year, the group continued to push for the vote for women.  Once passed Buell worked to get women to register.  A letter to the editor by Miss Buell in the Jan. 23, 1919 Ann Arbor Daily Times explained the process of registration. She was a member of the League of Women Voters serving two years as president and served on the board of the state League of Women Voters.

Dora Catherine Taylor Vaughan


(1856-1940)  Mrs. Victor C. Vaughan was an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage.  She was Vice-President of the University of Michigan Suffrage Club which merged with the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association in January 1912.  She was elected 2nd Vice-President of that group and her husband; Dr. Victor Vaughan was on the board of directors.  They both worked tirelessly to secure the vote for women.

Dr. Victor C. Vaughan

(1851-1929)  was dean of the University of Michigan Medical School, which rose to national prominence under his leadership from 1891- 1921. He founded the Washtenaw Equal Suffrage Association in September 1912 and was elected president. The members were representative men and women of every township in the county.  The purpose was “to present in as fair and square a way as possible the subject of equal suffrage to every voter in the county before November 5, when an amendment to the state constitution is to be voted upon.”


The amendment simply proposed striking out the word “male” in the articles related to suffrage, thus giving the vote to all women over 21 and making them full citizens of the United States.  They are presently allowed to own property, pay taxes, obey the laws, and earn their own living.  The amendment would give then the right to help make the laws and determine how their taxes are used. 

  • As the 1918 influenza pandemic circled the globe, U-M Medical School Dean Victor Vaughan was called in to help unravel the mystery of the deadly illness.

Sara Plummer


(1846-1937) Mrs. Plummer was elected President of the Ann Arbor Equal Suffrage Association at its first meeting in 1910 and continued to serve for several years.  As a member of the Ann Arbor Woman’s Club, she was disappointed when they obligated their delegates to vote “no” on the suffrage amendment in October 1910 meeting. 


At the November meeting of the Woman’s Club, the anti-suffragists stated that “women would be more likely to adopt the mannerisms of men if given equal rights.”  Mrs. Plummer gave a speech ridiculing that idea.  She also mentioned a discussion she had with a member of her church regarding a “bad man” running for public office.  The man she was talking to listened to her arguments about why the other man should not be elected and responded “Well now Mrs. Plummer, I believe all you say but it is this way; this man owes everybody money and he has promised to pay all his debts if we will help to elect him, so I don’t see what I am going to do.” By the end of that meeting the anti-suffragists had all walked out. 


By April 1913, anti-suffrage was still the majority at the Ann Arbor Woman’s Club.  At a meeting of the AAESA, Mrs. Plummer, who at one time was an officer in the Woman’s Club, declared “I did not attend the meeting of the Woman’s club this week when equal suffrage was discussed by women opposed to it, and I am rather glad I didn’t for I am afraid that I could not have sat quietly in my chair while my pet ideas were being assailed.”


Grace Carleton, club president from 1909-11, had apparently given the argument that women would not vote even if they had the right.  Mrs. Plummer proceeded to present statistics from the states and countries where women had the right to vote—in Colorado 70% of women vote and in Wyoming 90% vote.

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In 1910 Mrs. Plummer lived at 720 Catherine St.

Olivia Bigelow Hall


(1822-1908) Mrs. Hall was an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  She organized meetings, obtained speakers, and corresponded with national suffrage leaders. In January 1894 she hosted a reception in honor of Susan B. Anthony who was in Ann Arbor to attend the Second District Conference of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association being held at Newberry Hall. Israel and Olivia Hall owned the 78-acre fruit and berry farm and home at the corner of Hill and Washtenaw Avenues from J. D. Baldwin. Olivia Avenue in that neighborhood is named for her. The Halls are pictured here in their home.


A letter from Carrie Chapman Catt, president of NAWSA, in September 1901 inquired if Olivia would be interested in engaging Mrs. F. Fenwick Miller, a suffragette from England, to speak in Ann Arbor.  The terms “would be $25 and entertainment” or she could give two lectures for $20 each. Hall remained active in the movement until her death in 1908 at age 85.


Olivia  was also active in other matters in Ann Arbor. The county fairgrounds with its horse racetrack were at Hill and Forest Avenues, adjacent to the Hall land. Olivia became concerned that the racetrack so near town and a neighborhood school was a bad influence on children.  In 1890 she persuaded the Fair Association to move the racetrack to the land at the back of the old Baldwin farm in exchange for the former track land.  The former racetrack land between Hill and Cambridge (then known as Israel Hall Avenue) was then subdivided into residential lots.  The Ann Arbor newspapers carried many small articles about the sales with her name as the seller even though Israel was still alive at the time.


She also was on the ballot for the September 18, 1893 school board election.  There were apparently two ballots—one listing her as Olivia B. Hall and the other listing her as Mrs. I. Hall. Olivia received 26 votes and Mrs. Hall received 1, for a total of 27 cast by the 416 voters which included 102 women.

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The Life And Work Of Susan B. Anthony, Twice inscribed by Susan B. Anthony to her "Coworker" And Fellow Suffragette Olivia Bigelow Hall

First edition of the first two volumes of this biography of America's pioneering reformer—the only volumes published during her lifetime, inscribed and signed by her in each volume. Inscribed in Volume I: "Mrs. Olivia B. Hall, Ann Arbor—Michigan—From her affectionate friend & coworker Susan B. Anthony. Rochester, N.Y. Jan. 1, 1899," and in Volume II: "Mrs. Olivia B. Hall, Ann Arbor—Michigan—May the New Year bring added causes for happiness to her and all the loved ones of her home circle & to all homes—is the wish of her affectionate friend and coworker, Susan B. Anthony. Rochester, N.Y. Jan. 1, 1899."

Recipient Olivia Bigelow Hall (1822-1908), a noted suffragette from Ann Arbor, Michigan, hosted Anthony on many occasions and is mentioned numerous times in the text.

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Anthony to Hall.jpg
Annie Peck Smith 


(1850-1936) was born in Providence, Rhode Island.  She began her career as a teacher but decided she wanted more. After learning that she insisted on earning the same education as her brothers, Peck’s father agreed to support her education. In 1874 Peck enrolled at the University of Michigan, which opened its doors to women in 1871.

She graduated with honors in Greek and classical languages in 1878 and a master’s degree in Greek in 1881.

Further studies took her to Greece and other locales securing a degree in archaeology along the way.  Again, teaching and lecturing was not enough so in the mid-1880s she took up mountain climbing which led to many adventures to high places.

In 1911, at the age of 61, Peck, an ardent suffragette, climbed to the 21,079-foot summit on Mount Coropuna in Peru.  There she placed a "Votes for Women" banner at the summit. Peck wrote books about her experiences as well as travel guides

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