Throughout Ashtabula County's history, community leaders from a variety of professions fought for equal rights and participated in the women's suffrage movement.
Florence Ellinwood Allen, Joshua R. Giddings, and Benjamin Wade sought equality by practicing law.
Mary Howell Miller Battels was a physician who advocated for women's rights, suffrage, and community health.
Betsey Mix Cowles promoted higher education for women and was an abolitionist who wrote for the Anti-Slavery Bugle.
Mary Lydia Thompson Doe dedicated her work to women's voting rights as the President of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association.
When Carlotta Case Hall moved to the West Coast, she founded the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California in 1909.
Dr. Amy A. Kaukonen not only practiced medicine, but also became the first woman mayor elected in Ohio.
Edith Root Morrison was the Corresponding Secretary for the Ohio chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Read more about each of these "Valiant Visionaries of the Vote" below!
Ashtabula County Trading Card Hosts:
The Joshua R. Giddings Law Office was built in 1823 and served as the office of law partners Joshua R. Giddings (1795-1864) and Benjamin F. Wade (1800-1878). The building represents the tradition of early nineteenth century professionals who built their offices near their homes. The office still contains Giddings' desk, law library, and the first ever safe brought to Ashtabula County. The Joshua R. Giddings Law Office is owned and managed by the Ashtabula County Historical Society, organized in 1838.
The Hubbard family actively worked with other residents of Ashtabula nurturing an abolitionist stronghold in the county. The Hubbard’s house, being located by Lake Erie, served as a last stop for many runaway slaves escaping to their freedom in Canada. Underground Railroad conductors and runaway slaves referred to William and Katherine Hubbard’s home as "Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard" and "The Great Emporium." The Hubbard House now serves the Ashtabula community as a museum, fully restored to its original architecture.
Florence Ellinwood AllenPhoto: Digital Commons at Kent State University Libraries
Florence Ellinwood Allen (1884-1966) was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1884, to parents whose families were early settlers and educators of Ashtabula County. By the age of seven, Allen’s father had taught her Greek and Latin, and she was educated in the classics and music. When her more formal education began, Allen attended the New Lyme Institute (later known as Deming High School) where she dreamed of becoming a classical pianist.
Following a debilitating arm injury, Allen continued her education at Western Reserve University (later Case Western Reserve University) where a professor suggested a career in the Law. Despite the fact that women were not generally permitted to attend law school, let alone to vote, Allen obtained a legal education, fought for women’s suffrage rights, and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1914. As career opportunities in the legal field, openly available to men but denied to women, Allen opened up her own law office while also taking cases for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
In 1920, just after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, Allen was elected to the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas, the first woman to serve within our Judicial branch of government. In 1922, she was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court, and in 1934, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; all firsts for a Woman in this Nation. When an opening appeared on the United States Supreme Court, however, she was denied the opportunity to serve due to the objections of the other eight male judges of the Court. Allen passed away in 1966, and is buried in Waite Hill Village Cemetery in Lake County, Ohio.
Researched and written by Richard Dana.
Mary Howell Miller BattelsPhoto: Star Beacon
Mary Howell (Miller) Battels (1860-1927) was born in Covington, KY, and later moved with her family to Ashtabula County, where she graduated from the Grand River Institute in Austinburg, Ohio. She then entered one of the few schools in the nation that would at that time train women in the field of medicine, the University of Michigan, where she earned her Medical Degree in 1888. Though accepted into Medical School, she was trained in separate classrooms from her male colleagues, where female students were commonly referred to as “Hen Medics.”
Following graduation from Medical School, Dr. Battels became the resident physician at the Coldwater State School for orphaned and dependent children. By 1890, she moved to Detroit where she worked with Dr. Lucy M. Arnold, one of the first female Doctors in the State of Michigan, who was denied admission into the University of Michigan a generation before Dr. Battels graduated from their medical program. Difficulties pursuing life as professional women led Dr. Battels to become an outspoken voice in favor of women’s suffrage rights. At the end of the nineteenth century, women had a hard time starting a medical practice, and Dr. Battels was credited with joining a group of fourteen ladies to start the Detroit Free Dispensary for Women and Children. She would later study under Dr. Hermann Knapp at the New York Ophthalmic and Aural Institute in New York, specializing in cataract surgery. By 1894, she returned to Ashtabula County to operate a successful practice in the areas of eye, ear, nose, and throat, including surgery.
Dr. Battels continued her involvement with children and community health issues, operating a “Fresh Air Camp” while serving as executive capacities for the Ashtabula County Public Health League, the Women’s Hospital Auxiliary, and the Ashtabula Red Cross. Recognizing that women would only obtain the vote by working together, Dr. Battels helped lead a multitude of organizations that advocated for women’s rights, including: The Women’s Club of Ashtabula; the Ashtabula League of Women Voters; the Ashtabula Zonta Club; and the Fortnightly Club. Unlike her predecessor and former colleague, Dr. Arnold, who passed away in 1910, Dr. Battels voted in the 1920 election following final enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Researched and written by Richard Dana.
Betsey Mix CowlesArtwork: The Cowles family
Betsey Mix Cowles was born on February 9, 1810 in Bristol, CT, daughter of Giles H. Cowles and Sally White Cowles. The Cowles family settled in Austinburg, OH in Ashtabula County in 1811. Cowles wanted to be an educator and was passionate about early childhood education. She left to study infant schools in New York, and returned to Northeast Ohio to open an infant school in Kinsman with her sister, Cornelia, in the late 1820's. Cowles enrolled at Oberlin College for their Ladies' Course in 1838 and was a member of the third female graduating class in 1840.
Throughout her career, Cowles accepted several notable positions in education administration in Ohio's communities. She served as principal in Portsmouth, Massillon, and the Grand River Institute in Austinburg. She made an impact in the Stark County education system as the superintendent of Canton high schools and by helping to organize the Stark County Common School Association. She would later become the first female superintendent of the Painesville, OH school system. Later in her career, she shifted focus to promoting higher education for women and became the supervisor of practice teachers at the McNeely Normal School in Hopedale, OH, and assisted with the organization of normal schools in Bloomington, IL.
By the 1830s, Cowles became active in a number of abolitionist organizations, and was one of the founding organizers of the Ashtabula County Female Anti-Slavery Society, serving as their secretary in 1835 and again in 1847. She began writing for the Anti-Slavery Bugle, a publication of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society of New Lisbon, OH. She also served as an editor of The Plea for the Oppressed, an abolitionist paper published through the funds of the Ashtabula County Female Anti-Slavery Society. Cowles began to organize and speak publicly at anti-slavery fairs across Northeast Ohio beginning in 1846, and attended abolitionist meetings in New York and Boston, where she was appointed to the Business Committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society and New England Anti-Slavery Society, respectively.
In addition to speaking out against slavery, Cowles advocated for the importance of women’s rights and agency to affect change in society. Cowles was elected to preside over the first Women’s Rights Convention in the state of Ohio, held in Salem in 1850. She also helped organize the 1851 Woman’s Rights Convention in Akron as a member of the Business Committee, and presented research on the wage inequalities between urban men and women.
Researched and written by Kayla Metzger.
Mary Lydia Thompson DoePhoto: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1897
Mary Lydia Thompson Doe (1836 – 1913) was born in Conneaut, OH, attending school at the Conneaut Academy. At the age of fifteen, she began teaching in the county schools, before attending the State Normal School in Edinboro, PA, now Edinboro University. In 1877, led by her husband’s business interests, she relocated to Saginaw, MI.
Although the State of Michigan had denied Sojourner Truth’s request to vote in Battle Creek, MI in 1872 and soundly defeated a suffrage amendment to its state Constitution in 1874, the fight for voting rights for women continued. On May 21, 1884, the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association was formed in Flint, MI, with Mary as its first President, a position she would hold for the next six years. During her tenure in office, the women of the state of Michigan earned the right to vote in School Board Elections, Mary serving as a member of Bay City’s Board of Education.
Following her term as President of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association, Mary continued her work as one of the most “ardent and active equal suffragists in Michigan.” Over the coming years, she argued that women should play a larger role in education, including collegiate education, and called for women to serve on boards overseeing the State’s control of penal, reformatory, and charitable institutions. She held leadership positions within the International Label Union League, supporting labor unions and seeking to restrict the use of convict labor.
In 1893, the Michigan Legislature granted suffrage rights for women. However, that victory would be short lived, as the Michigan Supreme Court later ruled that the state Constitution did not permit the legislature to create “a new class of voters.” Undaunted, Mary sought a change in the Michigan Constitution to permit votes for women. Her last attempts were made in 1912, where the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association allegedly created widespread voter fraud, and again in 1913. Almost immediately following the 1913 election, where the Suffrage Amendment lost by a large margin, blamed on the “Liquor Interests,” Mary L. Doe passed away. Ironically, while her home state was denying the women of Michigan the right to vote, a chance meeting between Mary and a young Chinese student in Ann Arbor shortly before her death is credited with influencing China to grant women the right to vote when that country was forming a new republic. Michigan would finally pass a women’s suffrage amendment in 1918.
Researched and written by Jessica Leveto and Richard Dana.
Carlotta Case HallPhoto: Kingsville Public Library
Carlotta Case Hall (1880-1949) was born in Kingsville, OH in 1880 to Quincy A. Case and Adeline Percy (Hardy). Her family moved to Kingsville from Gustavus, Trumbull County, OH prior to 1870 and operated a cabinet and furniture finishing shop and funeral business; a common joining of occupations in that day. Carlotta, or “Lottie,” was educated at Kingsville Centralized School, the first centralized school district in the state of Ohio. In August of 1899, she made the cross-country journey to Oakland, Alameda County, CA by train to pursue higher education and lived with her aunt and uncle.
From Carlotta’s personal journal, we know that she was not accepted into the University of California, Berkeley on her first attempt in October of 1901, because her school credentials from Kingsville were rejected. For one year, she rallied on and attended Horton School, an accredited private school accepted by the university. Carlotta went on to study botany at UC Berkeley, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1904.
As early as 1905, Carlotta began her advocacy for women’s rights. She was the President of the Berkeley Political Equality Society and hosted quarterly meetings to compose replies to political figures who opposed women’s clubs and suffrage and to discuss women’s rights topics such as divorce. This would be just the beginning of Carlotta’s role as an activist.
Carlotta played an instrumental role in the creation of the College Equal Suffrage League of Northern California from its inception in 1909. She held the position of President, Vice President, and served on the Board of Directors. This organization was extremely influential in securing voting rights for the women of California with voters granting suffrage in that state on October 10, 1911. Every vote counted in this extremely close election, and Carlotta’s efforts including hosting meetings at her home and assisting with events to educate women on suffrage were instrumental in the women of California earning the right to vote nearly a decade earlier than passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1911, Carlotta was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, and her reputation as an ardent suffragist lead her to be named as a delegate to attend the state convention to favor any action advancing suffrage.
Researched and written by Mariana Branch.
Dr. Amy A. KaukonenPhoto: Library of Congress
Dr. Amy A. Kaukonen (1891-1984) was born in Elyria, OH, and relocated with her family to Conneaut, where she finished first in her Conneaut High School class. She directly entered the Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, PA, where she graduated with high honors in 1915. Kaukonen was the youngest student to graduate from the college.
In 1920, Dr. Kaukonen started a medical practice in Fairport Harbor, OH. She became a staunch and outspoken opponent of alcohol and corrupt government after witnessing the problems associated with bootleg whiskey in her medical practice. Fairport Harbor was one of the chief inlets of Canadian whiskey into northern Ohio, and bootleg whiskey was often deadly. It was said that when big loads of liquor from Canada were brought in by boat, airplane, and truck, the lights in the city’s power plant would be shut off and the town plunged in darkness. If indignant citizens protested, they were told by town officials the machinery at the power plant had temporarily broken down.
After living in Fairport Harbor for one year, Dr. Kaukonen was asked by the leading women of the town to run for Mayor on the reform ticket. At the age of 22, she beat her opponent by seventy-five votes. She was the first woman Mayor elected in Ohio, and one of the first in the country.
Once in office, Kaukonen’s Mayors Court revoked alcohol permits, jailed bootleggers, and promoted bootleg eradication plans. Her election as a young woman with aggressive alcohol policies gained newspaper accolades in Cleveland, New York, and Boston. President Warren G. Harding praised her efforts and sent her a letter with two Airedale terriers for protection. Dr. Kaukonen continued to deliver babies and maintain her private practice throughout this transformation.
Researched and written by Meghan Davis.
Edith Root MorrisonPhoto: Louise Morrison Raffa
Edith Root Morrison (1878-1959) was born in Kinsman, OH to parents Henry Root and Julia Fobes Root, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the New Lyme Institute in Ashtabula County. She attended New Lyme at the same time as future suffragist Judge Florence Allen.
Morrison was the corresponding secretary of the Ohio Chapter of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association for many years beginning at the age of fifteen. Susan B. Anthony wrote to her, addressing the letter to “Dear Little Miss Root,” as Morrison stood less than five feet tall.
In 1906, Morrison married Frederick R. Morrison in Ashtabula, OH. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was the first president of the Woman’s Club of Ashtabula from 1920-1922. Edith Root Morrison’s son, Robert S. Morrison, said his mother “had a mind as sharp as a sword.” She was considered independent, forward thinking and informed as well as having a good mind for business.
Researched and written by Meghan Davis.
Joshua R. Giddings
Joshua R. Giddings
Benjamin F. Wade
Photos: Library of Congress
Benjamin F. Wade
Joshua Reed Giddings (1795-1864) was born in Pennsylvania in 1795, and moved with his family to Ashtabula County in 1805. At the time, Americans native to the region still resided in the area. Giddings made friends with these original residents, and credited them with providing him much of his early education when more formal schooling was then unavailable.
Giddings fought in the War of 1812, and became a member of the Ohio bar in 1821. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1826, and would later serve in the United States House of Representatives from 1838-1859 where he earned the nickname the “Lion of Ashtabula.” Although laws within Congress forbade speaking about the issue of slavery, Giddings took every opportunity to speak about the issue even facing censure for his beliefs by his fellow Representatives. An ardent abolitionist, Giddings believed in our nation’s ideals that all persons were created equal. At a time when our nation supported a system that would permit the forced bondage of his fellow man, Giddings was considered “radical” for his beliefs not only to free African Americans from slavery, but also to grant them the right to vote. He put his life at risk with a long-standing bounty placed on his head, $10,000 alive or $5,000 dead, for anyone who would bring Giddings to the South to stand trial.
Giddings’ “radicalism” included the belief that women should have the right to vote. At the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Convention held in 1853, Giddings rose to “express his sincere interest in the cause” of women’s suffrage. As early as 1846, Betsey Mix Cowles was quoted as saying that “Giddings is the greatest ‘woman’ on the Reserve,” and that he “is with us.”
Benjamin Franklin Wade (1800-1878) was born in Massachusetts in 1800, and moved to Ashtabula County in 1820. He opened a law practice in Jefferson in 1828, and was a law partner with Joshua Giddings between 1831-1837. Wade was notoriously shy and tongue-tied during his early career, but learned to become a powerful advocate for freedom. Wade was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1836, Judge in 1847, and was appointed to the United States Senate by the Ohio legislature in 1851, serving until 1869.
Fervently against slavery, Wade fought strongly and publicly, not only for the rights of African Americans, but for suffrage rights for women. Indeed, in a letter written to Susan B. Anthony in November of 1866, Wade wrote that “I am now and ever have been the advocate of equal and impartial suffrage of all citizens of the United States [who having attained the age of twenty one and otherwise of sound mind] without any distinction on account of race, color, or sex.”
Following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the unpopular Andrew Johnson ascended to the Presidency. When the House of Representatives later issued Articles of Impeachment against Johnson for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Wade was next in the line of succession as the President Pro Tem of the Senate. At the subsequent trial, when the Senate voted whether to remove Johnson from office, Johnson was saved impeachment by one vote. Many scholars believe that Wade’s stance on enhancing voting rights for Women, an extremely “radical” view at the time, cost him the presidency.
Researched and written by Richard Dana and Mary Hostetler.
Ashtabula County Bibliography
Alma Record, “Long Service for Suffrage.” Alma: C.M. Flemming, September 19,
1912. pp. 6.
The Ann Arbor Argus, “Doctor of Medicine.” Ann Arbor: Ken Kelley, June 29, 1888. pp.
Bordewich, Fergus M. Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil
War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America. New York: Knopf
Doubleday Publishing Group, 2020.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Death of Dr. Knapp: Distinguished Surgeon, Who Founded
the Ophthalmic and Aural Institute.” Brooklyn: May 2, 1911. pp. 4. Accessed May
The Detroit Free Press, “A Free Dispensary Conducted by Ladies.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg,
March 15, 1893.
The Detroit Free Press, “A Right to Exist.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg, June 14, 1893. pp. 9.
Accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
The Detroit free Press, “Doors Open for Women Doctors.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg, July 4,
The Detroit Free Press, “Is Not Right.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg, May 21, 1896. pp. 1.
The Detroit Free Press, “Pioneers of Suffrage War Die Together.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg,
March 10, 1913. pp. 1.
The Detroit Free Press, “Suffragettes are Attacked by Mob.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg, March
10, 1913. pp. 3.
The Detroit Free Press, “Why I am for Suffrage.” Detroit: S.A. Bagg, March 6, 1890.
Giddings, Joshua R. History of the Rebellion, Its Authors and Causes. Manuscript. New
York: Foster & Co., 1864.
The Inter Ocean, “Equal Suffrage.” Chicago: Inter Ocean Publishing Co., May 23, 1884.
Julian, George W. The Life of Joshua R. Giddings. Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1892.
Kent State University Libraries, Judge Florence E. Allen Images.
Leonard, John W. Woman’s Who’s Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of
Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, Vol. I. New York: American
Commonwealth Company, 1914. pp. 84, 251.
The Plain Dealer, “Ohio Firms Offer Aid to President.” Cleveland: Advance
Publications, Feb. 7, 1917. pp. 3. Accessed Jan. 20, 2018.
Stewart, James B. Joshua R. Giddings and the Tactics of Radical Politics. Cleveland:
Press of Case Western Reserve University, 1970.
The Times Herald, “Political Briefs.” Port Huron: Timothy Gruber, May 24, 1884. pp. 8.
Trefousse, H. L. Benjamin Franklin Wade: Radical Republican From Ohio. New York:
Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1963.
University of Michigan. Catalogue of Graduates, Non-Graduates, Officers, and Members
of the Faculties, 1837-1921. Catalogue. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1923.
University of Michigan. General Catalogue of Officers and Students, 1837-1890.
Catalogue. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1891
The Wichita Daily Eagle, “For Pure Government.” Wichita: M.M. Murdock and R.P.
Murdock, May 19, 1891. pp. 8.