The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 95

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Section 1, of Article I., as to the right of suffrage, and Section 4, of Article III., which provides that members of the legislature must be free white male citizens. "Free" and "white" have lost their meaning (if the words in that use ever had any suitable or good meaning), but the word "male"

still retains its full force and effect. If this express restriction exists in the const.i.tution as to any other office, it has escaped my notice. It is true that the words "person" and "citizen" frequently occur in other parts of the const.i.tution in connection with eligibility and qualification for office, and I fully admit that by usage--"time-honored usage," if you will--these phrases have in common acceptation been taken to mean man in the masculine gender only, and to exclude woman. But a recent decision in the Court Exchequer, England, holding that the generic term "man" includes woman also, indicates our progress from a crude barbarism to a better civilization.

The office of county superintendent was created by chapter 52 of the acts of the seventh General a.s.sembly, laws of 1868, pages 52-72. Neither in that act, nor in any subsequent legislation on the subject, have I been able to find any express provisions making male citizens.h.i.+p a test of eligibility for the place, or excluding women; and when I look over the duties to be performed by that officer--as I have with some care, and, I trust, not without interest--I deem it exceedingly fortunate for the cause of education in Iowa that there is no provision in the law preventing women from holding the office of county superintendent of common schools. I know that the p.r.o.noun "he" is frequently used in different sections of the act, and referring to the officer; but, as stated above, this privilege of the citizen cannot be taken away or denied by intendment or implication; and women are citizens as well and as much as men.

I need scarcely add that, in my opinion, Miss Addington is eligible to the office to which she has been elected; that she will be ent.i.tled to her pay when she qualifies and discharges the duties of the office, and that her decisions on appeal, as well as all her official acts, will be legal and binding. It is perhaps proper to state that an opinion on this question, substantially in agreement with the present one, was sent from this office to a gentleman writing from Osage, in Mitch.e.l.l county, several weeks ago, which for some reason unknown to me, seems not to have been made public in the county. I have the honor to be, etc.,

HENRY O'CONNOR, _Attorney-General_.

Miss Addington, in her short letter of inquiry to the superintendent, has the following modest conclusion: "The position is not one I should have chosen for myself, but since my friends have shown so much confidence in me, and many of them are desirous that I should accept the office, I feel inclined to gratify them, if it be found there is nothing incompatible in my doing so."

The question of the eligibility of women to hold school offices was again raised at the October election of 1875. Miss Elizabeth S. Cooke was elected to the office of superintendent of common schools in Warren county. The question of her right to hold the office was carried by her opponent, Mr. Huff, to the District Court of that county, by appeal; and that court decided that the defendant, Miss Cooke, "being a woman, was ineligible to the office." It was then carried to the Supreme Court of the State, which held that "there is no const.i.tutional inhibition upon the rights of women to hold the office of county superintendent." In the meantime, however, and immediately following the decision of the Warren county judge, the General a.s.sembly, March 2, 1876, promptly came to the rescue and pa.s.sed the following act, almost unanimously:

SECTION 1. No person shall be deemed ineligible, by reason of s.e.x, to any school office in the State of Iowa.

SEC. 2. No person who may have been, or shall be, elected or appointed to the office of county superintendent of common schools, or director, in the State of Iowa, shall be deprived of office by reason of s.e.x.

Under the provisions of this law, and the above-cited decision of the Supreme Court, Miss Cooke was allowed to serve out her term of office without hindrance. Since that time women have been elected, and discharged the duties of county superintendent with great credit to themselves and advantage to the public. Women have also been elected to other school offices in different parts of the State. Mrs. Mary A. Work was unanimously elected sub-director in district No. 6, Delaware towns.h.i.+p, Polk county, in the spring of 1880; and soon after was made president of the board--the first woman, so far as known, to fill the position of president of a school board.

In 1877, in Frederica, Bremer county, Mrs. Mary Fisher attended the school meeting, and was elected as one of the three directors. The two others were men, one of whom immediately resigned, saying he would not hold office with a woman. His resignation was at once accepted. He further remarked that "woman's place was _to hum_; she was out of her _spear_ to school _meetin's_, _holdin'_ office," etc. Mrs. Fisher had been a teacher for six years. Mrs. s.h.i.+rley, another successful teacher, accompanied Mrs. Fisher to the next school meeting, and both ladies voted on all questions that came up for action, and nothing was said against their doing so.

This year (1885) the school board of Des Moines elected Mrs. Lou.

M. Wilson to the office of city superintendent of public schools, with a salary of $1,800 a year. She has in charge eighty teachers, among whom are two men in the position of princ.i.p.als.

At the woman's congress, held at Des Moines in October, 1885, Dr.

Jennie McCowen, in her report for this State, said:

An increasing number of women have been elected on school-boards, and are serving as officers and county superintendents of schools. Last year six women served as presidents, thirty-five as secretaries, and fifty as treasurers of school-boards. Of the superintendents and princ.i.p.als of graded schools about one in five is a woman; of county superintendents, one in nine; of teachers in normal inst.i.tutes, one in three; of princ.i.p.als of secondary inst.i.tutions of learning, one in three; of tutors and instructors in colleges, one in two; and in the twenty-three higher inst.i.tutions of learning, thirteen young women are officiating as professors, and in three of these colleges the secretary of the faculty is a woman. The State board of examiners has one woman--Miss Ella A. Hamilton of Des Moines--and the State superintendent of public instruction has for a number of years availed himself of the valued services of a woman for private secretary. The _Northwestern Educational Journal_ is edited by a woman. At the last meeting of the State Teachers' a.s.sociation a committee was appointed to prepare a regular course of reading for teachers. This course is mainly professional and literary, with a leaning toward the latter. A large number of these reading circles have already been organized, and much interest, and even enthusiasm, is being manifested by teachers in all parts of the State. The school of Domestic Economy, in connection with the Agricultural College, is in charge of a woman as dean, and, although but a year old, has made an auspicious beginning. A number of young ladies, graduates of the State University and other literary schools, have gone to the School of Domestic Economy to finish their education.

Iowa has many women engaged as journalists. Prominent among these is Miss Maggie VanPelt, city editor of the Dubuque _Times_. She conducts her department very ably, and acceptably to her readers.

Whether an advocate for suffrage or not, she is certainly a practical woman's rights woman. Independent and fearless, she goes about day and night where she pleases, and wherever her business calls her. A revolver, which she is known to carry, makes it safe for her to walk the street at all hours. Mrs. Will Hollingsworth, of the Sigourney _Review_, does a large part of the writing for that paper, and a.s.sists in the management of the establishment. _Woman's Hour_, edited by Mary J. Coggeshall, was published by women at Des Moines two seasons, during the exposition. Ten thousand copies were printed for free distribution, and a handsomely decorated department granted the society in the exposition for their work. Mrs. E. H. Hunter and Mrs. Woods represented the society. Mrs. Pauline Swaim is noted for her journalistic ability. Besides working on her husband's paper, the Oskaloosa _Herald_, she has done much for the _State Register_, reporting for it the proceedings of the Senate. In October, 1875, Nettie Sanford started a paper at Marshalltown, called _The Woman's Bureau_, which she published for two years.

During 1878 she published the _San Gabriel Valley News_, in California. Mrs. L. M. Latham for many years conducted a suffrage column in the Cedar Rapids _Times_; since 1884 she has been a.s.sociated with Mrs. J. L. Wilson on the _Transcript_, an eight column paper devoted to general news, temperance and woman suffrage. The paper is owned by Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Nettie P. Fox edits the _Spiritual Offering_ at Ottumwa; Mrs. Hattie Campbell, a suffrage department in _The Advance_, at Des Moines; Mary Osborne edits the _Osceola Sentinel_, and is superintendent of the public schools of Clark county; Mrs. Lafayette Young is engaged on the _Atlantic Telegraph_. Very many papers in the State have women in charge of one or more columns.

In the humbler walks of literature Iowa can boast quite a number of women who have made successful attempts at authors.h.i.+p.[415] In sculpture Mrs. Harriet A. Ketcham, of Mt. Pleasant, deserves mention. She has the exclusive contract to model the prominent men of Iowa for the new capitol. Mrs. Estelle E. Vore, Mrs. Cora R. Fracker, and Miss Emma G. Holt, are known as musical composers.

Among the lecturers of Iowa, Mrs. Matilda Fletcher is worthy of mention. Though she has never made woman suffrage a specialty, she is sound on that question, and frequently introduces it incidentally in her lectures. In 1869 she was living in obscurity in Council Bluffs, her husband being employed as a teacher in one of the suburban schools. Young, girlish-looking, no one seeing her would have dreamed of her possessing the capabilities she has since displayed. She started out under many discouragements, but has shown a perseverance, a self-reliance, and an indomitable will that few women manifest in the same direction. Mrs. Fletcher has been employed by the Republican party during some of the most important and exciting campaigns, speaking throughout the State, in halls, tents, and in the open air. Every such effort on the part of woman is an advantage to the cause we advocate, bringing it nearer to final success. But it is to Mrs. Stanton, Miss Anthony, Anna d.i.c.kinson, Mrs. Livermore, and other lyceum lecturers[416] that our State is especially indebted for a knowledge of the true principles upon which woman founds her claim to equal civil and political rights with man. In all sections of our land their voices have been heard by interested and delighted audiences.

There are about one hundred and fifty women in the medical profession in the different cities of the State. Mrs. Yeomans, of Clinton, is a successful pract.i.tioner. Mrs. King, allopathist, and Mrs. Hortz, homeopathist, are regular graduates in good practice at Des Moines. Dr. Harding, electrician, and Dr. Hilton, allopathist, also graduates, have all the practice they can attend to in Council Bluffs. In 1883, Dr. Jennie McCowen was elected president of the Scott County Medical Society. This was the first time a woman was ever elected to that office in this State, if not in the United States.

It is quite sure that Iowa may justly claim the first woman in the profession of dentistry--Mrs. Lucy B. Hobbs, as early as 1863.[417] At Cresco there is the firm of Dr. L. F. & Mrs. M. E.

Abbott, dental surgeons. At Mt. Pleasant, Mrs. M. E. Hildreth is a licensed dentist in successful practice.

Rev. Augusta Chapin was, I think, the first woman to enter the sacred office in this State. Miss Safford, Algona; Mrs. Gillette, Knoxville; Mrs. M. A. Folsom, Marshalltown; Florence E. Kollock, Waverly; Mrs. M. J. Janes, Spencer; Mrs. Hartsough, Ft. Dodge, are regularly ordained preachers of the Universalist and Unitarian faiths. There are several licensed preachers of the M.

E. Church, but none have received regular ordination.

Iowa furnished the following women who went to the front as nurses during the war: Mrs. Harlan, wife of Senator Harlan; Mrs.

Almira Fales, Mrs. Anne Wittenmeyer, Miss Phebe Allen, Mrs.

Jerusha R. Small, Miss Melcena Elliott, Mrs. Arabella Tannehill.

These all did good service in hospital and on the field, and some of them laid down their lives as a sacrifice. We copy the following as one of the many facts of the war:

Some years ago Adjutant-General Baker of Des Moines received a letter of inquiry asking about a certain soldier in the Twenty-fourth Iowa infantry. The tone of the letter was so peculiar as to attract considerable attention and create much comment in the office. In reply the general stated that the records of the regiment and the record of the soldier (whom, for the sake of convenience, we will call Smith, although that is far from the real name) were in his office.

A few days afterwards a gentleman from Northern Iowa appeared, inquired for General Baker, and was closeted with him long enough to divulge the following singular tale:

When the war broke out Miss Mary Smith, daughter of the general's visitor, was residing in Ohio, working for a farmer. Her father's family had moved to Iowa the fall preceding the attack on Sumter, leaving Mary behind to follow in the spring. Various causes conspired to delay her departure for her Iowa home until autumn, and it was September before she landed at Muscatine, from which place she expected to travel by land to her father's house. She was a large-sized, hearty-looking girl, eighteen years of age. Arriving at Muscatine, some strange freak induced her to a.s.sume man's apparel and enlist in the Twenty-fourth infantry, then in rendezvous at that city. She did this without exciting any suspicion, burned all her feminine garments and papers, neglected to inform her friends of her arrival, and became a soldier. Some comment was elicited by her beardless face and girlish appearance, but as she did her duty promptly and was particularly handy in cooking and taking care of the sick, the young warrior speedily became a general favorite alike with officers and men.

She pa.s.sed through all the campaigns in which the regiment was engaged without a scratch, except a close call from a minie ball at Sabine's Cross Roads, which took the skin off the back of her left hand, voted with the other members of the regiment for president in 1864, and was finally mustered out with her comrades at the close of the war. When she was discharged she procured female apparel--although in doing so she was obliged to make a confidant of one of her own s.e.x--and procured work in Illinois, not far from Rock Island. Six months elapsed before the tan of five summers wore off, and when she had again become "white," and had re-learned the almost forgotten customs of womanhood, she presented herself at her father's house, where she was received with open arms.

To all the questions which were asked by the various members of the family she replied that she had been honestly employed, and had never forsaken the right way. She had been economical in the army, and invested several hundred dollars in land in Northern Iowa, which rapidly appreciated in value, and to-day she is well off. With the remainder of her money she attended school. Last January a worthy man, who had been in the same regiment, but in a different company, made her an offer of marriage. Like a true woman she was unwilling to bestow her hand when any part of her former life was unknown, and before accepting the offer she made to him a full revelation of her soldier-days. At first he could not believe it, but when she proceeded to narrate events and incidents which could be known only to active partic.i.p.ants in them, told of marches, camps, skirmishes, battles, and the thousand and one things which never appear in print, but which ever remain living pictures with "old soldiers," he was obliged to accept the strange tale as true. The story, however, did not lessen his regard for her, and about the first of February they were married.

The lady's father, after hearing the tale of her life, was still incredulous, and only satisfied himself of its truth by a visit to the adjutant-general's office and an inspection of the records. By comparing dates furnished him by his daughter with the original rolls there on file he became fully convinced that it was all true.

A few of the inventions patented by women of Iowa are the following:

Fly-screen door-attachment, by Phoebe R. Lamborne, West Liberty; photograph-alb.u.m, Viola J. Angie, Spencer; step-ladder, Mrs. Mary J. Gartrell, Des Moines; baking-powder can with measure combined, Mrs. Lillie Raymond, Osceola; egg-stand, Mrs. M. E. Tisdale, Cedar Rapids; egg-beater, and self-feeding griddle-greaser, Mrs.

Eugenia Kilborn, Cedar Rapids; tooth-pick holder, Mrs.

Ayers, Clinton; thermometer to regulate oven heat, Mrs. F.

Grace, Perry; the excelsior ironing-table, Mrs. S. L. Avery, Marion; neck-yoke and pole-attachment, by which horses can be instantly detached from the vehicle, Maria Dunham, Dunlap; invalid bed, Mrs. Anna P. Forbes, Dubuque.

In the various business avocations I find the following:

Mrs. T. Nodles is the largest fancy grocer in the State, doing a yearly business of $80,000. Mrs. C. F. Barron, Cedar Rapids, designs and manufactures perforated embroidery patterns. Statistics show there are nine hundred and fifty-five Iowa women who own and direct farms; eighteen manage farms; six own and direct stock-farms; twenty manage dairy-farms; five own green-houses; nine manage market-gardens; thirty-seven manage high inst.i.tutions of learning; one hundred and twenty-five are physicians; five attorneys-at-law; ten ministers; three dentists; one hundred and ten professional nurses, and one civil engineer.

In the summer of 1884, the Fort Dodge _Messenger_ had this paragraph about a Des Moines family:

Miss Kate Tupper, of Des Moines, has been in town, visiting at Mr. Ba.s.sett's for a few days. Kate comes of a family which is remarkable for intelligent womanly effort and success. Her mother is Mrs. Ellen S. Tupper, the Bee-queen of Iowa, whose work on bee-culture is a recognized authority everywhere; her eldest sister is a very eloquent preacher at Colorado Springs; Miss Kate is studying medicine, having taken herself through a full course at the Agricultural College by her own work; and Miss Madge, who is only sixteen, is a famous poultry raiser, and an officer of the State Poultry a.s.sociation, who has made money enough in this business to defray her entire expenses through a full collegiate course. Mrs. Tupper's family is a sufficient answer to the question of woman's work, if there were no other. Let any mother in Iowa show three boys who can beat this.

In this year Mrs. Louisa B. Stevens was elected president of the First National Bank at Marion, Linn county. The important position women are taking in the business world is ill.u.s.trated by the presence of two delegates at the meeting of the American Street Railway a.s.sociation held in St. Louis in the autumn of 1885--Mrs. L. V. Gredenburg, proprietor and treasurer of the New Albany Street Railway of New Albany, Ind., and Mrs. M. A. Turner, secretary and treasurer of the Des Moines Railway, Des Moines, Ia. One of the gentlemen expressed the belief that fully $25,000,000 of street-railway stock in this country is owned by women.

As to the distribution of the cardinal virtues between men and women it is generally claimed that the former possess courage, the latter fort.i.tude. Although the pages of history are gilded with innumerable instances of the remarkable courage of women of all ages and conditions, and oftimes dimmed with the records of cowardice in men of all cla.s.ses, yet what has been said for generations will probably be repeated, even in the face of so remarkable a fact as the following:

On March 1, 1882, the Iowa House of Representatives, on motion of Hon. A. J. Holmes, suspended the rules and pa.s.sed a bill introduced by that gentleman providing for the presentation of a gold medal and the thanks of the General a.s.sembly of the State of Iowa to Miss Kate Sh.e.l.ly, to which was added a money appropriation of two hundred dollars, which pa.s.sed both Houses and became a law.

In support of the bill, Mr. Holmes spoke as follows:

Mr. Speaker: No apology is required for the introduction of this bill, and I shall make no explanation in regard to it, save a brief _resume_ of the facts upon which the bill is based. Miss Kate Sh.e.l.ly, with her widowed mother and little sisters and brother, lives in a humble home on the hill-side, in a rugged country skirting the Des Moines River. Her father had died years ago in the service of the great railway company whose line for some distance is overlooked by her home, while her mother, by economy, severe toil, and the a.s.sistance of Kate, was able to support her little family.

On the night of July 6, 1881, about 8 o'clock, there commenced one of the most memorable storms that ever visited Central Iowa; nothing like it had ever been witnessed by the oldest inhabitants. The Des Moines river rose over six feet in one hour--little rills that were dry almost the year round, suddenly developed into miniature rivers--ma.s.sive railway bridges and lines of track were swept away as if they had been cobwebs. It was while looking out of her window toward the high railroad bridge over Honey Creek, that Kate Sh.e.l.ley saw the advancing head-light of a locomotive descend into an abyss and become extinguished, carrying with it the light of two lives. It was then she realized in all its force that a terrible catastrophe had occurred, and another more terrible, if not averted, would soon follow to the east-bound express train, heavily laden with pa.s.sengers from the Pacific. She announced to her mother, sisters and brother, that she must go to the scene of the accident, and render a.s.sistance if possible, and also warn the oncoming pa.s.senger train.

It was in vain they tried to dissuade her. Although she was obliged to almost improvise a lantern in many of its parts, it was but a few minutes before she was ready to set out.

Realizing then that her mission was one of peril, and that she might not again look upon those dear faces, she kissed each of them affectionately, and amid their sobs, hurried out into the gloom, into the descending floods, toward the rus.h.i.+ng torrents--drenched to the skin, on she pa.s.sed toward the railroad to the well remembered foot-log, only to find the waters rus.h.i.+ng along high above and beyond the place where it had been. Then she thought of the great bluff rising to the west of her home and extending southward toward the railroad track, and she determined to ascend it and reach the bridge over this barrier to the waters. Need I recount how she struggled on and up through the thick oak undergrowth, that, being storm-laden drooped and made more difficult her pa.s.sage; how with clothing torn, and hands and face bleeding she arrived at the end of the bridge, and standing out upon the last tie she peered down into the abyss of waters with her dim light, and called to know if any one was there alive. In answer to her repeated calls came the answer of the engineer, who had caught hold of and made a lodgment in a tree-top, and around whom the waters were still rapidly rising, sending floating logs, trees, and driftwood against his frail support, and threatening momentarily to dislodge and engulf him.

It took but a moment to be a.s.sured that he was the survivor of four men who went down with the engine, and after a moment's hurried consultation, she started for Moingona, a mile distant, to secure a.s.sistance and to warn the eastward-bound pa.s.senger train then nearly due. As she pa.s.sed along the high grade it seemed as if she must be blown over the embankment, and still the heavens seemed to give not rain but a deluge. As she approached the railway bridge over the Des Moines river the light in her lantern, her only guide and protection, went out. It was then that the heroic soul of this child of only sixteen years became most fully apparent; facing the storm which almost took away her breath, and enveloped in darkness that rendered every object in nature invisible, she felt her way to the railroad bridge. Here she must pa.s.s for a distance of four or five hundred feet over the rus.h.i.+ng river beneath on the naked ties. As the wind swept the bridge she felt how unsafe it would be to attempt walking over it, and getting down upon her hands and knees, clutching the timbers with an almost despairing energy, she painfully and at length successfully made the pa.s.sage. She reached the station, and having told of the catastrophe at the bridge, and requested the stoppage of the pa.s.senger train then about due, she fainted and fell upon the platform. This very briefly, wanting in much that is meritorious in it, is the story of Kate Sh.e.l.ly and the 6th of July. Her parents were countrymen of Sarsfield, of Emmett, and O'Connell--of the land that has given heroes to every other and dishonored none. It was an act well worthy to rank her with that other heroine, who, launching her frail craft from the long stone pier, braved the terrible seas on that Northumberland coast to save the lives of others at the risk of her own.

Mr. Holmes then produced a copy of the _State Register_, and requested the clerk to read the article therein contained, giving the details of the heroic girl's action, written at the time of its occurrence, and after the clerk had read the article, concluded by saying: "I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this bill may pa.s.s, believing that it is right, and further believing that the State of Iowa will do itself as much honor as the young lady named in the bill, in thus recognizing the greatest debt in our power to pay--that to humanity." Mr. Pickler moved to amend by instructing the gentleman from Boone (Mr. Holmes) to make the presentation.

Carried, and the bill was amended accordingly, as above. On motion of Mr. Holmes, the rules were suspended, and the bill pa.s.sed by a vote of 90 to 1. The governor of the State, Hon.

A. J. Holmes, and Hon. J. D. Gillett were authorized to procure a medal of design and inscription to be approved by them, and present the same to the donee with the thanks of the General a.s.sembly of the State of Iowa.

The medal, which is of elegant design and workmans.h.i.+p, was executed by Messrs Tiffany & Co., of New York, and was presented to Miss Sh.e.l.ly during the holidays of 1883. It is round in form, about three inches in diameter and weighs four ounces five and a half pennyweights. On both sides it is sunken below the circular edges and the figures and decorations are then displayed in bold relief. On the face is a figure emblematic of Kate Sh.e.l.ly's daring exploit. It represents a young girl with a lantern in her left hand and her right thrown far out in warning, her hair streaming in the wind and her wet drapery clinging to her form, making her way over the ties of a high railroad bridge, in storm and tempest, with the lightning playing about her. In a semi-circle over the figure are the words: "Heroism, Youth, Humanity." On the reverse is the following inscription:

"Presented by the State of Iowa to Kate Sh.e.l.ly, with the thanks of the General a.s.sembly, in recognition of the courage and devotion of a child of fifteen years, whom neither the terror of the elements nor the fear of death could appal in her efforts to save human life during the terrible storm and flood in the Des Moines valley on the night of July 6, 1881."

The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 95

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