Dayton marched for suffrage: ‘I hope I shall not die before the American women are emancipated’

In honor of the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, we share the biggest moments from the movement documented in local newspapers.

Two words summed up how Jesse Leech Davisson, president of the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Montgomery County, felt when she learned women had won the right to vote.

“Oh, glorious.”

A bold headline across the front page of the Aug. 18, 1920, Dayton Daily News announced the news, “WOMEN GRANTED SUFFRAGE.”

Jesse Leech Davisson (front row, third from left) was among the members of the Woman's Suffrage Association of Montgomery County who attended an August 27, 1912, parade in Columbus. Pictured in the back row from left are Ada Eby, Lena Bunn, Mrs. R.K. Welliver, Jane Morlay, A.K. Neibel and Elizabeth Hecker. From the left in front are Mrs. McCrea, Mrs. Kipple Hall, Davisson and Mrs. J.E. Welliver. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE COLLECTION
Jesse Leech Davisson (front row, third from left) was among the members of the Woman's Suffrage Association of Montgomery County who attended an August 27, 1912, parade in Columbus. Pictured in the back row from left are Ada Eby, Lena Bunn, Mrs. R.K. Welliver, Jane Morlay, A.K. Neibel and Elizabeth Hecker. From the left in front are Mrs. McCrea, Mrs. Kipple Hall, Davisson and Mrs. J.E. Welliver. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE COLLECTION

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

“The civilization of the world is saved,” Ohio Gov. James M. Cox told the newspaper. “The mothers of America will stay the hand of war and repudiate those who trifle with a great principal.”

Davisson, one of the “mothers of America,” and a force in Dayton for suffrage rights, had fought long and hard with countless women across the country for this day.

The Dayton Herald published this half-page announcement on Nov. 4, 1918.
The Dayton Herald published this half-page announcement on Nov. 4, 1918.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

The first national Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and organized in part by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who helped launch the women’s rights movement.

Ohio was an early hub for political debate as women organized and spoke out against slavery and for temperance. In Dayton, the Woman’s Suffrage Association, the first of its kind in the state, formed in 1869, according to Dayton History.

In 1912 the Woman’s Suffrage Association of Montgomery County was founded with support from local industry leaders like John H. Patterson, president of the National Cash Register Company.

Thousands of people turned out on Main Street Oct. 24, 1914, to witness Dayton’s first suffrage parade.
Thousands of people turned out on Main Street Oct. 24, 1914, to witness Dayton’s first suffrage parade.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Thousands of people turned out on Main Street Oct. 24, 1914, to witness Dayton’s first suffrage parade.

“Hoboes and millionaires, society dowagers and humble domestic servants were represented in the parade and they all carried themselves as though with a realization that they were making history,” reported the Dayton Daily News.

Tearful women at suffrage headquarters watched Catherine Pflum lead the “mammoth pageant of Woman’s Rights” on horseback.

“They saw in the tableau the prophecy of the culmination of their efforts, the fruition of years of thankless labor.”

Banners carried in the parade read, “Men would not let women represent THEM at the polls,” “No righteous Cause of Good Person Fears Woman’s Suffrage,” and “Political equality opens the door to equal opportunity.”

Dayton Daily News, June 15, 1912.
Dayton Daily News, June 15, 1912.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Suffragists in white dresses with yellow chrysanthemums, high school girls, veterans, Boy Scouts and ministers took part in the parade.

“Equal suffrage means an advance in righteous living,” Bishop Milton Wright, the father of famed aviators Orville and Wilbur, told a reporter.

The front page of the Dayton Daily News on Aug. 18, 2020, announces women's right to vote.
The front page of the Dayton Daily News on Aug. 18, 2020, announces women's right to vote.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Marching in the parade was Anna Bolton, 91, one of the earliest suffragists in Ohio according to the Dayton Herald and in the early days of the movement entertained Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony and Eliza­­­­beth Cady Stanton.

“I go in the parade because I hope yet to live in an age when Ohio recognizes women as citizens,” she said.

“I lived to see the emancipation of the negro and hope I shall not die before the American women are emancipated.”

A women's suffrage poster. CONTRIBUTED
A women's suffrage poster. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

There were 40,000 women in Montgomery County eligible to cast a ballot in the November 1920 election.

Local election supervisors estimated they would need to double the voting precincts and the newly founded League of Women Voters began “an active campaign of instruction, education and organization along strictly non-partisan lines.”

Women learn to vote at NCR in Dayton on Oct. 27, 1920. NCR ARCHIVES AT DAYTON HISTORY
Women learn to vote at NCR in Dayton on Oct. 27, 1920. NCR ARCHIVES AT DAYTON HISTORY

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

On election day women were asked to vote between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to give working men a chance to vote before and after reporting to work, according to the Dayton Daily News.

“The number of voters in the city and county increased over 100 percent this year over the number registering during any other previous year.”

“The women were not at all timid,” the newspaper reported. “They went about the business of voting with a blasé air which seemed to indicate that this was ‘old stuff’ and just had to be done…”