Ladies' Gallery - The First Six

 

         
Nettie MacKenzie Clapp   Lulu Thomas Gleason   Nettie Bromley Loughead   Adelaide Sterling Ott   May Martin Van Wye   Maude Comstock Waitt

 

In February of 1861, President Abraham Lincoln visited the Ohio Statehouse. At the time, there was much debate among state officials who questioned whether women should be allowed to attend the president's address for fear that they could not "withstand the rigors of public debate." Back then, it was considered improper - or at least not customary - for women to so much as enter the Statehouse, which was considered a man's place of business, unless accompanied by a male escort. 

Statehouse legend has it that as crowds of men and women swarmed into the House chambers to hear President Lincoln, he refused to give his speech unless women were allowed in as well. And they were. 

Despite this short-lived triumph, women continued to be barred from entering the legislative chambers for 30 more years. It wasn't until 1891 that women could freely witness legislative debate from the Public Gallery, a balcony addition to the House Chambers built for visitors. 

It took 103 years for women to move from the back of the chamber to the front, when Jo Ann Davidson was sworn in as Ohio's first - and thus far only - female speaker of the House of Representatives in 1994. 

On June 16, 1919, Ohio became the 5th state to ratify the 19th Amendment - granting women the right to vote. By 1923 women had claimed four seats in the Ohio House, and two in the Ohio Senate.