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

Suffrage and Reform Movements in 19th-century Ohio

The threads of the suffrage struggle in northeastern Ohio run through the fabric of many other reform movements. Many women in the early 19th century were not involved in politics or social reform. Yet as the second Great Awakening swept the northeast in the early 1800s, a few courageous and thoughtful women sought to bring reform where they saw great need. Those who became politically active saw injustice that needed to be righted, but when they tried to get involved, they ran into barriers.

Women rarely spoke in public, or wrote on political matters, or organized to change public opinion and policy. In the struggle for social change, the need for women’s rights--for political and social equality--stood out starkly. The reformers’ call for equality resonated with women who were tired of being denied everything from property rights, control of their wages, and custody rights, to higher education and suffrage. Women’s rights activists were involved in many causes, and in the early 19th century it was by no means clear that suffrage would become their primary political focus.

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