Frances Casement and the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association
Born in Painesville, Ohio, Frances Jennings Casement grew up in a wealthy and politically connected family. Her father, Charles Jennings, was a farmer, educator, and politician who served as a State Representative and founded a local Grange association. Jennings was a strong abolitionist, publicly advocating for black equality and freedom. Casement enjoyed an education few girls of her time could access, and she caught early the vision for political equality and participation. Her husband’s political work also fed this vision. When Jack Casement’s railroad work took him west to Wyoming, local citizens elected him in 1868 to represent them in Congress (as a non-voting member), working to gain both statehood and universal suffrage. Both Frances and Jack Casement worked with Anthony and Stanton in the effort to gain women’s suffrage. It is not clear why Casement waited until 1883 to organize the Equal Rights Association of Painesville, OH. When she did, bringing local influential women on board was a delicate matter, as the temperance movement was popular, but the women’s suffrage movement was not. Still, Casement’s tact and skill in leading discussions won many to her cause, and two other chapters opened the next year.
Her activism did not go unnoticed, and the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association invited her to attend its first annual conference in 1884. Although Casement did not attend, she was elected vice president anyway. When the president, Ezra P. Taylor, resigned the next year, citing his duties as a U.S. Representative, Casement became the president. As president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association, Casement maintained ties to national suffrage leaders and joined a chorus of voices calling for the reunification of the two leading suffrage organizations, the NWSA and the AWSA. Casement gave a ringing call for this consolidation in her 1884 address to the AWSA convention in Chicago. As the first federal amendment for woman suffrage in 1887 was defeated in Congress, older national leaders yielded to younger activists and regional leaders asking for a united front and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1890.