19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio Main MenuIntroductionThe Road to SuffrageThe Struggle at CWRUNotable FiguresAfter SuffrageEinav Rabinovitch-Fox2e56e3d6b4b5f137a53bf7f9d80912f3b70a7958Lauren Dostal628641db4e19e9efe2242726f29ce1860e9c6baeIsabel Fedewa20dc403a88a0fde6c4856bc25beccbae49174777Jewel Yoder Kuhns34ffc591dd6b165c1079a95ab2c0ba1ad4aecf01Kellyn Toombsef2469033dbca72962b50fe7dea33c71c0a45069Abbey Wellsef2cda5c08d1ad75ae8532e3f202032ddc31cee0
Flora Stone Mather
12020-04-02T19:23:53+00:00Jewel Yoder Kuhns34ffc591dd6b165c1079a95ab2c0ba1ad4aecf0181Cleveland philanthropist and women's rights activistplain2020-04-02T19:23:53+00:00Jewel Yoder Kuhns34ffc591dd6b165c1079a95ab2c0ba1ad4aecf01
Following the Civil War, Cleveland female reformers focused more on helping the young working women in the city than on fighting for suffrage. Women from surrounding rural areas, as well as women who had emigrated from Europe, had found work in Cleveland’s factories during the war but suffered competition for work as men returned from fighting.
The postwar industrial expansion in Cleveland drew huge numbers of immigrants to Cleveland, and the Women’s Christian Association of Cleveland, founded in 1868, saw a need for respectable housing for single women, opening several boarding houses for them. The need was great: “By 1880, 10,000 Cleveland women were employed, with well over 75% as domestic servants, laundresses, dressmakers, and milliners. At the turn of the century, 20% of Cleveland's labor force was female.”
Taking cues from Progressive reformers in Chicago, Flora Stone Mather led other wealthy Cleveland women in founding settlement houses for these workers. The Goodrich House was the first to be built in 1897. These organizations offered educational programs and resources which intended to help women better their lives.
Other settlement houses and programs followed, including Jane Edna Hunter’s Phillis Wheatley Association to board young black women. Hunter had worked her way into the middle class as a nurse and a lawyer, and she wanted to provide safe housing and employment support for working black women, who were particularly vulnerable to exploitative landlords and employers. As wealthy and middle-class women saw firsthand the struggles of female workers--the long hours, terrible conditions, and low wages--they turned to politics to change these problems. As historian Lois Scharf observed, “This flourishing social feminist activity and sense of femaleness also led to increased attention to political rights.”