Votes for Lakewood Women!

Votes for Women! That slogan is synonymous with a large movement that occurred throughout the country and abroad during the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. With focus on big name women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Chapman Catt, and Alice Paul, it can be easy to overlook the importance of local women in the struggle for women’s suffrage.  In our new exhibit Roaring Lakewood: The 1920s & Lakewood we highlight the contribution of many Lakewood citizens in the advancement of women’s right to vote.

Like other areas throughout the United States, Lakewood was a city where women earned the right to vote before the national amendment.  While the first states to grant women the right to vote were in the Western portion of the country, they did so to challenge growing populations of immigrants and to provide greater representation of the population on issues.

Ohio Amendment 23

However in Lakewood, its citizens campaigned for the inclusion of women voters starting in 1912.  Organizing in 1912, the Lakewood Women’s Suffrage Party advocated for the inclusion of women in the democratic process. Nnot only women participated in this organization, but women’s husbands campaigned as well to grant their wives and daughters the right to vote.  In 1917, the people of Lakewood put before the City Council the issue of women’s suffrage. The council passed in Lakewood, but a similar bill failed at the state level. The issue statewide on women’s suffrage failed again a year later. It was not until the ratification of the 19th Amendment that Ohio voted for the rights of its women to vote.

 

After The First World War the issue of women’s suffrage was again put before the nation and in 1920, states voted to ratify the 19th Amendment.  After the 19th Amendment went into law, the Lakewood Women’s Suffrage Party transformed into the Lakewood League of Women Voters.  This organization, like countless others across the country, is still active today. Its purpose is to educate the public on political issues not only about women, but political issues in general.  It can be a source of unbiased information about local, state, and national issues that appear on the ballot. Many women who urged for the inclusion of women went on to serve in other areas of politics that will be discussed in future posts.

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Photo: Across the state, Ohioans sought to grant women the right to vote. Pictured here is a group of suffragettes from Columbus rallying for the right to vote. (Credit: Ohio History Connection)

Remember Lakewood’s Ladies in March 2016

February is Black History Month, but how many of you know that March is Women’s History month? March 4, is actually celebrated around the world as International Women’s Day. Women of Lakewood had, and continue, to impact our community through their roles in politics, social organizations, education, and community change.  367-16Much like what we did at Lakewood Historical Society over the course of February, highlighting the unique and important role African Americans played in the history of Lakewood, we will showcase many of the achievements and impacts of Lakewood’s Women. Stay tuned for our first installment of the Ladies of Lakewood series…Votes for Women!

AAHM Part I, Antebellum Rockport

Excerpts are from our May 2011 Newsletter. An article written by one of our former volunteers, Sabine Kretschmar, highlights the history of African Americans in Rockport Township which would become Lakewood in 1889.

“The First African-American in Cuyahoga County, George Peake, settled in Rockport in 1811. By 1820, blacks accounted for twenty percent of the overall population of 157, a very high percentage for a township in the Western Reserve at the time.

“Rockport was primarily a farming community and not surprisingly, most of the residents, including the black population, were farmers or farm hands. Mentions of blacks in local histories are very infrequent and usually refer to them by first name only, such as ‘Henry’ or ‘Elijah’ or by their labors. For example, the book titled the Early Days of Lakewood, reported that Adam Wagar employed, ‘twenty Negroes cutting wood on his property; they lived in temporary shacks south of the present Madison Avenue at Morrison Avenue.’

Wyandot mission0001“The laws in Rockport, as in all of Ohio, were not colorblind. Ohio was a ‘free state’ as confirmed in the state constitution in 1803. However, that does not mean it was without racial discrimination.

“Ohio passed several ‘black laws’ in 1804 and 1807 designed to prevent African-Americans from migrating to the state. In order to be a citizen of Ohio, b lacks would need at least two people to put up a $500 bond for their good behavior and they would have to produce a certificate of free status. In addition, laws prohibited blacks from marrying whites, voting, testifying in court against whites, holding office, or serving in the state militia. State tax dollars would not support schools with black students. By the late 1840s, abolitionists were successful in repealing some of these laws.

“In spite of this, northern Ohio-especially the Western Reserve-was relatively more sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans than the southern part of the state. New Englanders and New Yorkers, who settled in this part of the state in large numbers, brought their dislike of slavery with them.” (…)

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This is Part 1 of our series throughout the month of February to highlight the history of African Americans in Lakewood. Stay tuned for our second installment, Early Abolitionists in Lakewood.

Lakewood’s First African-American Resident

In 1809, African-Americans George Peake and wife Hannah guided their wagon across the Cuyahoga River and onto the new Rockport Road. Theirs was the frist wagon to travel on the new road, which had been the former Indian trail known as the Detroit Road. Records show that George was a British veteran of the French and Indian War and had served under General Wolfe in Quebec. It was said that he had deserted his unit, taking with him the money he was given to pay the other soldiers. He married and settled in Pennsylvania, then moved to Cleveland in 1809, choosing to settle on land one mile south of the mouth of the Rocky River in Rockport.

George was 87 when he arrived in Rockport with his two older sons, George and Joseph. His younger sons James and Henry soon followed them. George purchased 105 acres of land, which he farmed, and became a well-respected Rockport citizen. The Peakes built a handmill which was an improvement on the Indian style mills used locally in grinding hominy. George died at the age of 107. He and his wife Hannah were said to have been the first African-Americans to reside in Cleveland.

Black History Month at Lakewood Historical Society

As countless historical societies, museums large and small, and other organizations reflect on the impact slavery had on our national identity and history, it inspires us at the Lakewood Historical Society to reflect on our history of abolition and freedom.  Here at Lakewood Historical Society, we have a collection of books written by local authors that shed light on the interesting history of the Rockport area.  Students are taught in school about the Civil War that divided the still young nation over the issue of states’ rights to own slaves.  The divisive nature of slavery and the desire to help escaped black slaves find their freedom in Canada and other areas of the North touched Lakewood and other coastal areas.  In one of our local history books, Margaret Manor Butler wrote, Philander Winchester’s:

“religious background made them ardent supporters of freedom” and “did all [he] could for the anti-slavery movement. The Winchester home was the key place in Rockport for the underground movement, and many stories of narrow escapes have come down to us.”

With stories about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass, students are exposed to one of the darkest times in our nation’s history. With the study of local individuals, like the Winchesters, we see that Lakewood has a diverse history and role in the abolition, ending, of slavery.  It also serves as a brief look at how national events and issues touch a small community.

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Margaret Manor Butler, The Lakewood Story (New York: Stratford House, 1949). 112-113.