I didn’t want to let Women’s History Month go by without noting that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote.
With so many of the earliest local newspapers missing, it’s not clear exactly when the notion of women voting first popped up in Hamilton County. I can, however, tell you that a two-day “Woman’s Rights Convention” was held in Westfield in 1869. (1869!)
Among the speakers was journalist, lecturer and leader in the women’s rights and temperance movements, Mary A. Livermore. (That makes at least THREE major women’s rights advocates who’ve put in appearances in this county, the other two being Susan B. Anthony and Belva Lockwood.)
The1869 convention attracted women, and even a few men, from all over Hamilton County. Attendees pledged to “use every lawful means to obtain the extension of the elective franchise to women.” To that end, they established the Hamilton County Woman’s Suffrage Association.
The woman suffrage movement doesn’t seem to have picked up much steam around here, however, until a few years after the turn of the century.
When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the19th amendment and voting became a reality for the women of this country, the August 19, 1920 Noblesville Daily Ledger displayed the headline, “Congratulations to Local Women.”
The accompanying article encouraged the county’s estimated 5,000 to 6,000 voting age women to exercise their newly won rights, which included holding office as well as voting.
The Ledger then went on to offer a few observations on the ways suffrage would affect Indiana’s new voters.
The newspaper pointed out that it would be left to the officials in each precinct to decide if women would be furnished with a polling place separate from men, but that male and female voters would use the same ballots.
The ladies were also assured they would be treated equally when they came to register for the November election on September 4 and October 4.
On Election Day, Nov. 2, the weather was cold and gloomy, but that didn’t stop voters from turning out in droves, including the newly enfranchised ladies.
The Ledger very kindly pointed out that most of the women walked into the voting booth like they’d been doing it all their lives and very few of them needed help marking their ballots. (Hmm. Why do I get the feeling some man wrote that story?)
Several Noblesville women were so eager to vote they showed up at their polling place before it even opened at 6 a.m., shoving their way past businessmen who were trying to vote early in order to get back and open their shops.
Some of the ladies excused their behavior by saying they needed to return to their work at home as quickly as possible. (One had cranberries cooking on her stove and wanted to get back before they burned!)
Other women were simply so curious about the electoral process they didn’t care if they kept someone else waiting.
The Ledger couldn’t refrain from commenting on the women who lived so close to the polls they didn’t bother to dress “for the street” and voted instead in their “kitchen apparel.”
A few women even went out to vote without their hats. (How shocking!)
For the most part there was no trouble, but a handful of female voters did get into heated political discussions. One woman declared she was going to “knock the block” off another woman, but officials overheard the threat and stepped in to keep the peace.
The newspaper summed up the experience with “women voted in large numbers and had a good time on election day.”

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com