Selected history of women and public service in Kentucky.
Kentucky becomes the first state to permit suffrage of any kind; property-owning widows and single women were given the right to vote in school elections.
Lucy Stone delivers three suffrage speeches at the Masonic Hall in Louisville.
First woman's suffrage association in Kentucky blossoms briefly in Glendale, Hardin County, but soon disappears.
View photographs and primary documents from the suffrage movement in Kentucky.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to Louisville.
Susan B. Anthony speaks in Richmond. This sparked the state's first permanent women's rights association, Madison Co. Equal Rights Assoc.
Women admitted into the University of Kentucky.
Kentucky legislature denies women the right to be admitted to the bar.
The American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, meets in Louisville; at the close of the convention, Kentucky Woman Suffrage Association is formed with Laura Clay as president.
Louisville Women's Club founded- did not originally support woman suffrage.
Louisville School of Pharmacy admitts women.
Mary Barr Clay of Kentucky elected President of the American Woman Suffrage Association.
Laura Clay reorganizes and founds the Fayette Co. Equal Rights Association.
American Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Cincinnati, Ohio. Laura Clay calls suffragists to establish a new statewide organization; Fayette and Kenton county formed Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Laura Clay served as 1st President until 1912.
Sophonisba Breckinridge becomes first women admitted to the Kentucky bar.
School suffrage laws extended to women of 3rd class cities: Lexington, Covington, and Newport.
Kentucky passes a Married Women's Property act allowing married women to make wills and own property.
Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs forms in 1894, as the fourth state association to affiliate with the (national) General Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt visit Louisville and other Kentucky cities to speak on behalf of women's suffrage.
Part I of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman's Bible is published (Part II in 1898). Kentucky’s Josephine Henry writes a chapter. Henry was later ejected from the Kentucky Equal Rights Association as an "undesirable member" for her involvement in the project, just as Stanton was distanced from the NAWSA.
Kentucky women are allowed to sit on the board of directors of the state reform school for girls.
Emma Guy Cromwell becomes the first woman to be elected to statewide office when she becomes state librarian.
For the first time, women physicians are permitted in women's wards in hospitals for the insane.
At the Kentucky Equal Rights Association's annual convention in Lexington, Sally Clay Bennett reported, as Superintendent of Federal Suffrage, that “a petition was presented to the Congress from the ERA of KY asking its members to protect white and black women equally with black men against state denial of the rights of citizens of the U.S. to vote. . .”
Women gained the right to keep their own earnings.
Cora Wilson Stewart becomes first woman president of Kentucky Education Association.
Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization made up of white women, opposes the admission of Black women clubs into the Federation. General Federation of Women's Clubs affirmed the opposition in 1902.
In Lexington, a higher turnout of Black women than white women for the school board elections creates alarm over the potential for black influence in school politics.
The Kentucky Legislature repeals laws granting women the right to vote in school elections, becoming the first and only state to repeal suffrage once given. The reason given for the repeal is the large number African American women voting in a block in the 1901 Lexington school board elections.
Carry Nation, a temperance activist, is almost killed in an altercation with a saloon keeper in the city of Elizabethtown.
Kentucky Legislature passes Day Law, effectively segregating all Kentucky schools based on race.
Kentucky Legislature raises the age at which a girl can marry from age 12 to 16.
Kentucky passes a co-guardianship law which recognizes a mother's claim to her own children.
National American Woman Suffrage Association holds its national convention in Louisville at the Seelbach Hotel, attended by Jane Addams of Hull House in Chicago; Sophonisba Breckinridge, Professor at Chicago University; M. Carey Thomas, President of Bryn Mawr College; and Emmaline Pankhurst, leader of British suffragists.
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge replaces Laura Clay as president of KERA.
1st public women's rights march in the South, involving 200 Louisville suffragists led by Mrs. John B. Castleman.
KERA members totaled 10,522 and organizations exists in 119 of the 120 Kentucky Counties.
Madeline Breckinridge and Laura Clay, introducing a suffrage amendment, become first women to address a joint session of the Kentucky Legislature. It fails.
National American Woman Suffrage Association asks all efforts be concentrated on the federal Susan B. Anthony amendment. KERA abides and the suffrage bill is not introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly.
Laura Clay, a proponent of states’ rights, resigns from KERA and organizes the Citizens Committee for a State Suffrage Amendment, which fights against Kentucky’s ratification of the 19th Amendment in favor of states’ rights. Madeline Breckinridge predicts that Kentucky will ratify the federal (19th) amendment.
January 6- On the first day of the legislative session, Kentucky ratifies the 19th Amendment with a Senate Vote of 30 to 8 and a house vote of 72 to 25. Kentucky is the 23rd state to ratify the 19th amendment. Because of fears that the amendment would not receive full ratification in time for the November presidential election, a bill was passed in March giving women the right to vote in presidential elections.
August 26th- Full passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
National American Woman Suffrage Association dissolves and reorganizes as League of Women Voters to operate on local, state and national levels. Kentucky Equal Rights Association becomes L.W.V.
Mary Elliott Flanery becomes Kentucky’s first female legislator when she is elected to the House of Representatives.
Emma Guy Cromwell becomes Kentucky’s Secretary of State.
Katherine Gudger-Langley becomes Kentucky’s first U.S. Congresswoman.
Kathleen Mulligan becomes Kentucky’s first woman judge.
Pearl Carter Pace becomes sheriff of Cumberland Co.
Caroline Conn Moore becomes Kentucky’s first female Senator.
Amelia Tucker becomes the first African American woman elected to the Kentucky State Legislature.
Georgia Powers, Lucretia Ward, and many others march on Frankfort demanding access to public accommodations. Kentucky legislators fail to pass bill until 1966 session.
Kentucky Commission on Women established by Executive Order; becomes official state agency in 1970.
Georgia Powers becomes first African American to be elected to the Kentucky Senate.
Alice “Dolly” McNutt is elected mayor of Paducah, becoming the first female mayor of a Kentucky second class city.
Thelma Stovall becomes Kentucky’s first female Lt. Governor.
As acting governor, Lt. Governor Thelma Stovall, vetoes a resolution passed by the General Assembly which rescinded Kentucky’s 1972 ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). However, the legislature overrode her veto.
Martha Layne Collins becomes first woman Governor of Kentucky.
Sara Combs becomes the first female member of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Kentucky House passes HR 70, directing the Legislative Research Commission to undertake a study of pay equity in Kentucky state employment.
Governor Paul Patton creates Governor’s Office of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Services; First Lady Judi Patton is appointed special advisor.
The Kentucky Legislature passes HB864, creating the Office of Women’s Health.
Kentucky Legislature passes HB 268 which requires the Department of Personnel to develop a new classification and compensation system to ensure pay equity.
Nicki Patton and Ellen Williams become chairpersons of the Democratic and Republican parties of Kentucky, respectively. For the first time, both parties are lead by women.
This timeline is based on information gathered from History of Woman Suffrage, vols. 1-3, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., vol. 4, Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, eds., and vols. 5,6, Ida Husted Harper, ed.; “Madeline McDowell Breckinridge: Kentucky Suffragist and Progressive Reformer,” Melba Porter Hay; “The Woman Suffrage Movement in Kentucky, 1879-1920,” Claudia Knott; The Kentucky Encyclopedia, John E. Kleber, ed.
This timeline is not meant to be comprehensive, but to represent selected highlights in the history of women in public service in Kentucky.
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