The Long and Winding Road to Women's Rights in Indianapolis

The struggle for women's rights in Indianapolis has been a long and arduous one, stretching back to the formation of the Indiana Women's Rights Association (IWRA) in 1851. This organization was dedicated to achieving equality in all political rights and functions, and in 1859, three members of the IWRA submitted a petition to the General Assembly calling for suffrage and an increase in property rights. The Association also voted to become an auxiliary to the American Women's Suffrage Association. In the 1880s, Indiana women made some progress in terms of property rights, and briefly thought that they had also won the suffrage battle. In 1881, they gained full control of their assets and the ability to sue on their own in actions related to them. On April 8th of that year, after receiving a suffrage monument in Indianapolis and 30 Indiana counties, and after receiving a call to action from Governor Albert G.

Porter, the General Assembly passed a resolution to grant women the right to vote through an amendment to the state constitution. Unfortunately, this amendment was not approved by a majority of voters. This meant that women still did not have the right to vote. Local journalist Sarah Underhill, editor of the Ladies Tribune, a short-lived temperance newspaper, spoke at the convention about the effects that women's legal disabilities had on society. The publishers of The Mayflower, from Peru, found ways to support both the war and suffrage and continued to publish in the early 1860s. By the turn of the century, Indianapolis women had made significant advances in property rights, but suffrage continued to elude them.

Indiana suffragettes submitted the first petition in defense of women's right to vote to the state legislature in 1859. The third law offered women in Indiana partial suffrage, giving them the right to vote in presidential elections, in some state offices, and in municipal elections that same year. In 1919, Congress passed a new suffrage bill which granted women full voting rights. On January 16th 1920, Indiana ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which granted women the right to vote (Congress ratified it on August 18th 1920).The long road to women's rights in Indianapolis has been a hard-fought one. From Sarah Underhill's speech at the 1856 convention about women's legal disabilities, to Robert Dale Owen's testimony honoring his supporter Bolton at the Constitutional Convention Bill, generations of Hoosier women have worked tirelessly for their rights. Finally, after years of struggle and dedication, Indianapolis women have achieved full voting rights.

Mable Aliotta
Mable Aliotta

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