Some of my favorite movies growing up were John Wayne westerns. I always especially liked “True Grit” and “Rooster Cogburn,” two of his films based on author Charles Portis’ character Rooster J. Cogburn. Cogburn is a one-eyed, sometimes drunk lawman in the old west, whose best days are behind him, but who has, as the title of the book states, “True Grit” when it comes down to tracking down the bad guys.
In “Rooster Cogburn,” the second film, Wayne teams up with Katherine Hepburn, who portrays the strong-willed, outspoken, spinster daughter of a of minister, who hires Cogburn to track down her father’s cold-hearted killer. The two main characters banter back and forth all through the movie, but by the end have learned to respect each other. At one point following an exchange, Wayne’s Cogburn exclaims, “God help us if they ever give ’em the vote.”
If he was a real person, Rooster Cogburn would have never lived to see it, but forty years after the setting of the story, they did ‘give ‘em (women) the vote.’
Beginning in 1848, women began to organize meetings and associations around the country, and ladies such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the charge in calling for the right to vote to be extended to women.
Ohio became one of the earliest states to join the fight for woman suffrage, i.e., the right to vote in elections. In April 1850, the Ohio Women’s Convention was held, which was the first statewide women’s right convention in the country and was attended by approximately 500 people. The movement continued to grow in Ohio and across the nation. It is of interest that many of the women were also strong in their anti-slavery sentiments.
Following the Civil War, many women joined suffrage groups which were forming. In Ohio, Harriet Taylor Upton became a leading figure for the rights of women. Her father had become a U.S. Congressman, and this allowed her to meet and speak with many leaders in Washington, D.C. Upton later became the president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association, as well as treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Locally, people and groups were mentioned in the news occasionally, but there is still much to be learned on this portion of Miami County history. Mrs. Margaret Minton of Bradford is noted as one who had long been a promoter of voting rights and equality. She was active in gathering meetings and events that would help the cause.
Troy and Piqua also had local associations which were energetic in meeting, presenting material and active in persuading people that women, as Americans, also deserved a voice in the election of representatives at every level of government.
One of the big events of the Troy Woman Suffrage Association was in the Edwards Auditorium on Monday, January 22, 1917. “Living Pictures” and “How the Vote was Won” were presented to a large and pleased audience. Living Pictures was a live advertisement show for various local businesses. Trojans donned clothing, presented furniture and offered talent routines as a manner of sponsoring the main presentation.
Utilizing local talent, the “Vote” play set a scenario of what would happen if all ladies left their homes, business, etc. and returned to live with their nearest male relative. The family in the play, portrayed by Paul Yount and Mrs. Charles Malone, were inundated by many of their female relatives who are seeking the ‘protection’ of their family. It was supposedly a humorous, yet strong play which sought to convince men of the need to pass the 19th Amendment.
On June 16, 1919, 100 years ago, Ohio became the sixth state to ratify the Amendment which stated no citizen could be refused the right to vote on basis of sex. In addition, Ohio took an extra step in that they passed a resolution which stated if the 19th Amendment had not been ratified as the law of the land by the time of the 1920 Presidential election, then women in the state could still vote in the election. Ohio and the nation will celebrate 100 years of voting rights for women in 2020.
The right to vote in our nation should not be taken lightly. A little over 50 percent of eligible voters actually take time to cast their ballot, even during a presidential election. Whether you are a woman or a man, we need to take care of our part by voting whenever we have the opportunity.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org