Search This Blog

Friday, June 28, 2013

Women's Suffrage - 100 Years of the Right to Vote

On June 26, 1913, the State of Illinois approved women’s suffrage. Illinois was one of many states to approve women’s right to vote in advance of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920, which granted all women the right to vote in all elections.

Suffrage pageant featuring German actress, Hedwig Reicher as "Columbia" in front of 
U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., March 13, 1913. (Library of Congress)

Before women received the right to vote, they were considered second-class citizens with limited rights and privileges, and were beholden to their husbands. It was the Anti-Slavery Movement of the early 1800s that spurred progressive-minded women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), to begin a women’s rights movement.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 
prominent civil rights and women's rights leaders. 
(Library of Congress)

In 1848, Stanton held a convention in Seneca Falls, NY to discuss the “social, civil and religious rights of women.” This was the official beginning of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) joined the movement in 1850, and became a central figure. Anthony was famously arrested for trying to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1872.

In the "Portrait and Biographical Album for Lake County, Illinois" 1891, each man's church and political affiliations are listed, but for their wives only a church affiliation, since their political views were inconsequential without the right to vote. The sketch for Mark Bangs of Wauconda notes: "In politics he was a Whig and cast his first Presidential vote for William Henry Harrison... Both he and his wife [Clarissa Hubbard Bangs] are faithful members of the Baptist Church of Wauconda." 

Anti-Women's Suffrage postcard, circa 1918. 
Even George Washington got in on the act! (Curt Teich Company postcard BB302)

The Suffrage Movement spread, and in 1910, chapter houses of the American Woman’s League were built in North Chicago and Zion, Illinois. The league worked to “advance, protect and uplift American womanhood,” and spun off into the American Woman’s Republic, which educated women about government in preparation for when they had the right to vote.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, circa 1893.
African-American journalist and activist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), fought for women's suffrage and civic education. In order to ensure the rights of Black women, Wells-Barnett worked to make them aware of their rights and established the Alpha Suffrage Club in January 1913 for African American women in the Chicago area. She encouraged women of color to become involved in politics. 

The club sent Wells-Barnett and followers to the national suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. in early March 1913. To their dismay, they were asked to march at the back of the parade or not at all. Segregating the marchers was a strategic move to win the support of Southern states who opposed having more black voters on the rolls.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett marching with the Illinois delegation at the suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., March 1913. Capper's Weekly (Topeka, KS) August 1, 1914, pg. 3

Unable to gain support from the white Illinois delegation, Wells-Barnett refused to march. Halfway through the parade, she mustered her strength and took her rightful place with the Illinois delegates, completing the march between two white supporters. 

A leading activist, Grace Wilbur Trout (1864-1955) was president of the Chicago Political Equality League, which published pamphlets and circulated petitions to lobby the state legislature to grant women voting rights.  When she became president of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, the organization started focusing on creating local organizations and lobbying individual legislators. 

Grace Wilbur Trout, 1913. (Library of Congress)

Trout mobilized a public show of support in getting Illinois's partial suffrage bill passed. The bill permitted women to vote for "Presidential elections and for all local offices not specifically name in the Illinois Constitution," but not for state representatives, congressional representatives, or governor. The bill passed on June 11 (83 votes for and 58 votes against) and was signed by Governor Dunne on June 26, 1913.

The new law made Illinois the first state east of the Mississippi River to grant women the right to vote for President of the United States. 

Interestingly, the first woman to vote in Illinois in a town election did so twenty-two years before the Illinois law was passed. In 1891, Ellen Martin of Lombard noticed that the town's charter did not mention gender as a factor in who could vote. After she and 14 other women voted in that year's elections, the charter was quickly amended. 

Clara Colby of Libertyville, 
the first woman to legally vote in Illinois.
Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. 

On July 5, 1913, Clara A. Colby (1878 - 1962) became the first woman to legally vote in Illinois, casting her historic ballot for a new town hall in Libertyville. Colby said, “I’m a very happy woman to have had this opportunity.” 
Headline from the "Chicago Tribune," the day after Clara Colby's historic vote. (above)

The paper noted that Clara's husband, Wayne Colby, was very proud of her. He was quoted as saying: "Just to show that it is not such a terrible thing for a man to stay at home and do the housework on the occasional voting day."
Anti-Women's Suffrage postcard, circa 1918. Men at home doing the laundry and 
looking after babies was a prominent theme of naysayers. (Teich Postcard Archives, BB342)

After returning home briefly, Clara Colby went back out to encourage more women to vote. She spoke to women on the street telling them, "Do go and vote. I don't care if you vote in favor of the new hall or against."

Daisy E. Morse (1876 - 1946) headed a delegation of half a dozen women who applied for ballots. She was quoted in the paper: "My husband told me not to vote, but you see I am here."

Libertyville's Mayor Schnaebele's wife and daughter, Caroline and Della, preferred to finish their morning housework before casting their vote. The paper noted, "They were on hand first thing in the afternoon and cast a ballot in favor of the new town hall."

The Tribune noted that Clara Colby "more than hinted that the balance of power rested in their [women's] hands and the men had best take care and keep Libertyville clean or the women would show their strength and make demands."

Commemorative plaque at Clara Colby's gravesite, Lakeside Cemetery, Libertyville, Illinois. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fort Sheridan and the Impact of Chemical Warfare

During World War I (1914-1918), Fort Sheridan was at the forefront of mustering and training soldiers. Much of that training focused on mastering trench warfare, since the frontline in Europe was cluttered with the trenches of opposing armies.

As wounded soldiers returned from the war, the Fort shifted its priority from training soldiers to caring for them.

One of 78 hospital wards at Fort Sheridan, circa 1919. Dunn Museum 92.24.236

Many of the injuries treated at the Fort were caused by innovations new to warfare such as airplanes and poison gas. More than 30% of American casualties were from poisonous gases which ranged from disabling chemicals (tear gas and severe mustard gas) to lethal agents (phosgene and chlorine). Gases blistered exposed flesh and caused rapid or, worse, gradual asphyxiation. Those fortunate enough to survive needed somewhere to convalesce. 

The hospital at Fort Sheridan was built in 1893 and shown here circa 1930. Dunn Museum 92.24.1384

In 1918, the Post’s hospital expanded its operations and became General Hospital No. 28. Later it was dedicated as Lovell General Hospital for General Joseph Lovell (1788-1836), Surgeon General of the U.S. Army from 1818-1836.

Associated Press article which appeared in The Dispatch, Moline, Illinois on October 18, 1918.

The hospital grew into a multi-building complex, including the entire Tower complex. Temporary wooden structures were constructed on the Post’s parade grounds. This was the largest military hospital in the United States to treat wounded and convalescent soldiers.

View of Fort Sheridan looking northwest, showing the Tower and temporary
buildings for General Hospital No. 28 (later Lovell General Hospital) across the parade grounds.
Circa 1919. Dunn Museum 95.32.1

The "Trackless Train" at Fort Sheridan moved wounded between
hospital wards for treatment. Photo from the Chicago Tribune,
March 8, 1919.

Even with the Fort Sheridan hospital and other facilities throughout the country, there were more casualties than the system could handle. In addition to treating veterans of the war, Fort Sheridan's hospital accepted civilians suffering from the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.

In 1919, the Hostess House of the Young Women's Christian Association was built at Fort Sheridan using
salvaged material. General Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the
Western Front in World War I, visited Fort Sheridan and the Hostess House in December 1919.
The facility provided a library and tea room which served homemade meals to convalescing soldiers. Dunn Museum 95.32.24.

Paul Steorp of Deerfield Township, Lake County, IL, wearing gas mask. Steorp 
served with the U.S. Army Ambulance Service. Dunn Museum 2003.0.16

The World War prompted an enormous expansion of the Army Medical Department. When the U.S. entered the war the department consisted of less than 1,000 personnel. By the time the peace treaty was signed in November 1918, it numbered over 350,000. 

In 1920, the temporary structures of Lovell General Hospital were dismantled and sold, and the parade field returned to an open state.

The memory of the horrors of WW I prompted changes in training soldiers for future conflicts, including mandatory gas mask training. 

2nd U.S. Infantry training in tear gas at Fort Sheridan,
circa 1925. Dunn Museum 92.24.1015.
Soldiers entering a gas chamber built on the Fort's Lake Michigan
shoreline. Circa 1935. Dunn Museum 92.24.1761.

Overseas during wartime, military personnel, nurses and civilians were legally required to carry gas masks at all times. Members of the Womens' Army Corps trained in the use of gas masks in simulation chambers as part of their coursework on chemical warfare and some studied gas identification in Officer Candidate School.
Women's Army Corps members emerging from gas chamber training
at Fort Sheridan, 1964. Dunn Museum 92.24.1202

To this day, researchers work to increase protection for military personnel against greater varieties of biological and chemical weapons.

The Bess Bower Dunn Museum's (formerly the Lake County Discovery Museum) Fort Sheridan Collection is digitized and hosted online at the Illinois Digital Archives