Women in Kentucky - Reform

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge: “Madeline McDowell Breckinridge was Kentucky's foremost Progressive reformer. A founder of the Lexington Civic League and the Associated Charities, the person primarily responsible for the establishment of the Blue Grass Sanatorium and the Lincoln Model School, and the principal leader of the woman suffrage movement during the final years before ratification of the federal woman suffrage amendment, Madge Breckinridge was at the time of her death the most famous and influential woman in Kentucky."

- Melba Porter Hay, Ph.D.

Madeline Breckinridge grew up at the family home, Ashland, built by her famous great- grandfather Henry Clay. In 1898, she married Desha Breckinridge, the editor of the Lexington Herald and brother of Sophonisba Breckinridge. Madeline Breckinridge's list of achievements is a long one. She was chair of the Kentucky Federation of Women's Clubs from 1908-1912. During this time she successfully pushed for the passage of legislation allowing women to vote in school board elections. She was president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association for two separate terms and vice-president of theNational Women's Suffrage Association. The importance of her efforts in the fight for women's suffrage cannot be overstated by those in Kentucky and the rest of the nation. She died in November of 1920, shortly after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and after she cast her first and only vote. She had lived to see a great dream realized.

A Mother's Sphere
By Madeline McDowell Breckinridge
Published by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, Inc., 1917
(Courtesy of Margaret I. King Library Special Collections and Archives, University of Kentucky)

View the revision of the song “My Old Kentucky Home” composed by Madeline McDowell Breckinridge in celebration of Kentucky women gaining the right to vote.

Learn more about the Suffrage Movement in Kentucky.

Click here to get informations in german!

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