Women in Kentucky - Reform

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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Site Overview


A. What

Performing Arts
Public Service

B. When

View a selected history of women
View a selected history of women
Sounds and images
Civil War Diaries

C. Where

Central / Northern Kentucky
Western Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky
Southern Kentucky


Selected Readings
Educational Tools
Web tools
Archival Collections
Children's Books

E. About this Project

Women in Sports:

Minnie Adkins
Elizabeth Barret, Anne Lewis, Mimi Pickering, & Justine Richardson
Jane Burch Cochran
Joan Dance
Enid Yandell

Women in Business:

Nelda Barton-Collings
Julia Dinsmore
Laura Freeman
Mattie Mack
Lena Madesin Phillips
Caroline Burnam Taylor

Women in Education:

Helen Lew Lang
Katherine Pettit
Jane Stephenson
Cora Wilson Stewart

Women in Health/Medicine:

Mary Britton
Linda Neville
Ora Framer Porter
Louise Southgate, M.D.

Women in Journalism:

Linda Boileau
Alice Allison Dunnigan

Women in Law:

Pearl Carter Pace
Lt. Colonel Linda Smith

Women in Literature:

Effie Waller Smith

Women in Military:

Lt. Anna Mac Clarke
Capt. Helen Horlacher Evans
Julia Ann Marcum

Women in Music:

Sarah Ogan Gunning
Helen Humes
Lily May Ledford
Reel World String Band
Jean Ritchie
Mary Wheeler

Women as Pioneers:

Esther Whitley

Women in Public Service:

Governor Martha Layne Collins
Emma Guy Cromwell
Rep. Mary Elliott Flanery
Sen. Georgia Davis Powers
Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall

Women in Reform:

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Laura Clay
Eula Hall
Josephine Henry
Belinda Mason
Lois Morris
Eliza Caroline Calvert Obenchain
Charlotte Richardson
Joan Robinett
Mary Sue Whayne
Corinne Whitehead
Evelyn Williams

Women in Religion:

Eldress Nancy Moore
Rabbi Gaylia Rooks

Women in Science:

Sarah Frances Price
Ellen Churchill Semple

Women in Sports:

Terri Cecil-Ramsey
Geri Grigsby
Audrey Whitlock Peterson
Mary T. Meagher Plant