Josephine K. Henry: Josephine K. Henry, the driving force behind the 1894 Women’s Property Act, was awarded a “Pioneer Distinguished Service” certificate in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. But a century later she is all but forgotten in her home state of Kentucky.
Much in demand as a speaker, Henry appeared before the Constitutional Convention and General Assemblies seeking support for woman’s suffrage, married women’s property rights, protection of minors, co-guardianship rights for mothers and other causes. She wrote hundreds of newspaper articles, many of which were reprinted in newspapers throughout the country. In addition to writing speeches and editorials, Henry wrote tracts, poetry and two books—Marriage and Divorce and Woman and the Bible. She was a wife and mother and also a contributor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible. Her part in this project and her outspoken views on religion, marriage, and divorce caused a split between Henry and Laura Clay and others in the Kentucky Equal Rights Association before the turn of the century.
In Kentucky, a married woman had no right to property, not even the clothes on her back. She could not make a will or receive the wages which she earned. By 1890 Kentucky was the only state where this was still true.
The Women’s Property Act was Henry’s greatest goal and her greatest success and legacy. But she would spend the rest of her life decrying a system which saw married women as less than equal partners. She regarded the property act as the first step toward woman suffrage. Grasping the importance of economic independence and security and the power that it carries, Henry wrote, “The battle for equal property laws has been on for years, and has been more hotly contested than any measures that have been before the legislatures and the Constitutional Convention.”
- Aloma Dew
Henry also wrote poetry. Read two of her poems, Comin' Thro' The Rye and The Old Town Clock.
Read Josephine Henry's appeal to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Learn more about the Suffrage Movement in Kentucky.
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