Join us at the History Center on Thursday, March 26, 2020, 5:30PM-7:30PM
In 1850-1851, the men of Ohio held a Constitutional Convention. They thought the 1802 Constitution needed updating. Ohio women agreed whole-heartily. They immediately convened four equal suffrage conventions in Columbiana, Morgan, and Morrow counties. They collected petitions containing 2,106 signatures from twelve counties praying that the words “white” and “male” be dropped from voter qualifications, and they submitted their petitions to the Constitutional Convention. When the all-male vote was taken, the issue failed 73 to 7. It was said that comments during discussion were “so low and obscene” they were not even recorded into the Proceedings.
Sixty-two years later, a spirit of reform was sweeping the country in reaction to the excesses of Big Business and harsh working conditions. Progressive men wanted tools of direct democracy to counter these evils, while the daughters of the 1850 women were still waiting for their political equality. In 1912, Ohio men gaveled a Constitutional Convention into session. During five months, they deliberated 350 reforms and offered the [male] voters 42 amendments to approve at a September 3rd Special Election. Amendment 23 would give Ohio women the right to vote in general elections for the first time. To urge [male] voters to pass this amendment, Columbus suffragists invited women from all over Ohio to demonstrate in unity for their freedom. On August 27, 1912, 5,000 women arrived in Columbus to march three miles in what the Columbus Citizen lauded as “Woman’s Suffrage Parade Greatest in State’s History.”
Hear Belle Coit Kelton, Vice Chair of the suffrage parade, tell how the Columbus’ Centennial Celebration helped their demonstration, how they borrowed tactics from the “militant” British suffragette movement, and how difficult it was to persuade 1.3 million Ohio [male] voters to give up centuries of privileged institutional patriarchy in just three months.
Leslie Blankenship earned a Bachelor of Science (Secondary) Education degree from Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, majoring in history and English with a minor in Political Science. She came to Columbus in 1970 to study history in the Master’s Program at The Ohio State University where she first learned the story of the British suffragette movement. She took the first Women’s History classes offered by OSU in 1972. Along the way, she switched her pursuits to science and was employed by Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) in 1974 as a Marketing Communications Writer, using her education skills to inform scientists about the usefulness of CAS’ publications and services. Retiring after 37 years in 2012, she began pursuing local history full time. She was a founding member in 1996 of the Friends of Freedom (an Underground Railroad research organization) and has served on the boards of the Columbus Historical Society (mid-1990s), the Franklinton Historical Society since 1998, and the Ohio Local History Alliance 2013-2018. She has been a Docent at the Kelton House Museum and Garden since 1990 where she first discovered the story of Belle Coit Kelton and the 1912 Ohio Woman Suffrage parade.