The centennial of women’s suffrage in America will be marked in 2020 and 2021 with exhibits at the Ohio Statehouse.
On June 16, 1919, Ohio became the fifth state to vote for ratification of the 19th Amendment, which would guarantee women the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, the amendment was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution.
As a result, the election of 1922 delivered six women to Ohio's 85th General Assembly - two to the state Senate and four to the House of Representatives. Since 1922, more than 150 women have served in the halls of the Ohio Capitol, one of them as speaker of the house.
Ohio’s First Women Legislators
Taking their historic seats for the 1923-24 session were six courageous, capable and determined women elected by their home districts to serve in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.
Serving in the 1923 Ohio House of Representatives were:
Nettie McKenzie Clapp ( R ) from Cuyahoga County. Rep. Clapp was the first woman legislator to sponsor a bill that was enacted into law.
Lulu Thomas Gleason ( R ) from Lucas County was most noted with her campaign being managed entirely by women and being backed by the Women’s Christian temperance Union.
Adelaide Sterling Ott ( R ) from Mahoning County, served three terms in the Ohio House. She was the first woman member of the House to preside over that body when she was asked by the Speaker to occupy temporarily the chair during a session.
May Martin Van Wye ( R ) a member of the House and Senate from Hamilton County. She served in the House for three terms and the Senate for one term.
Serving in the Ohio Senate were:
Nettie Bromley Loughead ( R ) of Hamilton County was the first woman to receive a nomination to run for state Senate and the first to introduce a bill.
Maude Comstock Waitt ( R ) from Cuyahoga County served four terms in the Ohio Senate. She introduced three bills which became law.
In June 2008, a room in the Ohio Statehouse was dedicated to serve as a lasting tribute to those first six women. This website is meant to serve as a directory of all the women who have served, or are currently serving, in the Ohio legislature.
The Ladies' Gallery, located off the Statehouse Atrium along its southeast passageway, pays homage to the first female Ohio legislators who paved the way for women in government, and honors all women who have served in the Ohio General Assembly. Its enduring function will be to inform and inspire all who visit - especially young women and girls - to take an active role in democracy.
Members of the Ladies' Gallery Committee, comprised of some of the highest-ranking women in state government, have been working with the Capitol Square Foundation and the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board since 2004 to raise funds and awareness, creating this educational room in the Statehouse. The committee has helped to raise nearly $264,000 to create the exhibits and display a variety of artifacts. The room contains an interactive video kiosk, historic items, clothing, photos, banners, and artifacts pertaining to the first women legislators and the history of the suffrage movement in Ohio.
The Ladies' Gallery project is part of a $3.5 million capital campaign to update the educational programs and exhibits throughout the Ohio Statehouse. By utilizing the latest technology and other creative visuals to tell the story of Ohio's rich history and the important work of state government, the grandeur and functionality of the Statehouse will be taken to a new level by enriching the experience of schoolchildren and visitors.
To schedule a guided tour through the Ladies' Gallery and the Ohio Statehouse, please call 614-728-2695 for more information.
Photo Credit: Ohio History Connection