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Indiana Suffrage Centennial Newsletter

Indiana Suffrage 100  | Published on 10/9/2020


Indiana women voted for the first time on Nov. 2, 1920,choosing a president, a governor, a senator and a host of state and local officials. Women showed up in large numbers, often bringing their children whom they took with them into the booth or handed off momentarily to other voters in line. The IndianapolisNewsnoted that men voted early, on their way to work, while “by 8 o’clock, with breakfast over, the dishes washed, and the house straightened up a bit, Mrs. Voter was on the way to vote.” (Factory workers, men and women, voted around noon, when they were let out of work to go vote, according to reports.) In Indianapolis, high turnout was reported in Black and German-American precincts. One woman voter was too short to reach the levers; another got in a car crash on her way to the polls but undeterred, patched up at the hospital, took a short rest, and still made it to the voting booth that afternoon.

New Albany women showed up wearing “I will vote by 10” pins, having pledged to show up to the polls in the morning. South Bend reported that nearly all of the 38,477 women registered actually showed up to vote. In Lafayette, nuns from Saint Elizabeth Hospital “marched in solemn procession to the polls.” In Greenfield, the first voters to show up at eleven precincts were women. 103-year-old Sarah Cannon of Washington arrived in a wheelchair and got help with her ballot due to poor eyesight.

In the words of Terre Haute journalist Ida Husted Harper, “For the first time in all history, the members of the United States Congress in their deliberations on all questions will have to take into account the opinions of women, and when their minds revert to their cherished constituents they will have a vision of women sharing the seats of the mighty.”

These and so many other indelible stories were captured in newspaper reports at the time, providing a poignant window into the meaning of this first vote for thousands of Hoosier women. We hope you carry these stories with you into the voting booth this fall.

Thank you to historian Anita Morgan, whose research we have adapted here. If you’d like to discover more stories like these, including what took place in your hometown, dig into the Hoosier State Chronicles.

>>Start researching

Did you miss the Coffee Break talks that were part of August’s Suffrage Block Party? Catch up on our Facebook page! You’ll find talks on regional leaders in the women’s suffrage movement (like in Bloomington and South Bend), the ways Black women’s involvement later shaped their politics, and prominent national leaders from Indiana like Grace Julian Clarke. You can also catch recordings of notable Hoosier women reading children’s books about suffrage on our Facebook page.
By the way, Purdue University political scientist Nadia E. Brown, one of our Coffee Break presenters (pictured above right), one of our Coffee Break presenters,was announced as the moderatorfor the upcoming Indiana gubernatorial debate! Tune in on Oct. 27.
>>View the coffee break talks

Oct. 14-15 marks the 169th anniversary of the first Indiana Women’s Rights Convention, which convened in Dublin, Indiana in 1851. In honor of this momentous day, graduate public history intern Lydia Prebish is headed to Wayne County, which was truly a hotbed of suffragist and reform activity in the 19th century (curious why? Quakers!). Follow us on Instagram to see her journey on Oct. 15; we’ll also share her full itinerary, allowing you to create your own suffrage road trip, on our blog. And see below for other great upcoming events on the suffragists of Wayne County.
Read Up on Hoosier Quaker suffragists