19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

Frances Gage and Ohio Women's Rights Conventions

When Frances Barker Gage recounted significant events in her life for the Women’s Journal, she began with a story from her childhood, in which she tried to make a barrel but received a scolding for her efforts. “What a pity she was not a boy!” she remembered her father sighing. "Then and there sprang up my hatred to the limitations of sex,” Gage wrote. “Then and there the foundation was laid for all my woman suffrage work, which began in 1818, when I was ten years old." Gage first got involved with reform movements through writing for local newspapers. She was drawn to the abolition and temperance movements as well as the women’s rights movement, believing that women and black people both suffered from their lack of political rights. As for temperance, Gage saw how women whose husbands abused alcohol couldn’t control their wages or get a divorce, leaving them trapped in cycles of poverty and abuse. She spoke throughout the Midwest, persuading many other women to join her in reform activism. 

Gage was aware of the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, and she shared many of the goals of the emerging women’s rights movement. She first organized a local convention in McConnelsville, OH, in 1850, in which she led an effort to petition the Ohio State legislature to remove language referring to race and gender from citizenship requirements. Although Gage felt her inexperience keenly (“I have never in my life attended a regular business meeting”), she also led a women’s rights convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851 and the fourth national women’s convention in Cleveland in October 1853. Gage went on to campaign for Ohio women’s rights to control their own property as well. 

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