Posted by Tim Adams
At 12:30 pm President Julie Pingston with the push of a button pulled us into the main meeting room from our remote lunch tables. Interesting enough over the last year there has been no confusion over to whom which water glass and bread plate belongs to who at our weekly meetings. President Julie asked that John Shaski unmute to deliver for our invocation. America the Beautiful as performed as out patriotic song by our own John Dale Smith.
 
President Julie retook the helm to recognize visitors to our meeting. Kim Barber from Globetrotter Travel, Kayla Green with the Michigan Institute of Contemporary Art who are visiting, but not for long as their applications for membership are being considered by the club. Diane Sanborn declared the club in good health, which is welcome news in the current environment in which we live.
 
President Julie reminded our club to set your clocks forward this weekend, which if you are reading this and were not aware, you are an hour late for the next appointment or task you had scheduled. In our ramp up to April, which in Rotary is also known as Paul Harris Campaign month, Melody Warzecha gave her appeal to the importance of Rotary and our worldwide fight against polio.
 
President Julie had Mary Moreno from Gardner International Magnet School update our club how the funds raised by our annual December local fundraiser are being put to use by the school. Gardner is currently a kindergarten through 8th grade school, with over 900 students in attendance. Children in the school include those that are hearing, visually impaired, diagnosed with autism and physical impairments. Gardner will be installing ADA compliant picnic tables, funnel and tether ball poles, a swimming pool training platform, a 9 hole disc golf course and a circular Ga-Ga pit, which is a gentler form of dodgeball than those of us who attended school at an earlier time. As a student of a different era that got drilled by some future major leaguer with a fast ball to the face or back, it is comforting to know this activity now has a gentler form.
 
President Julie move forward recognizing Rotarians in our club doing great things, with recognition going to Monique Field Foster being named to the Peckham board as a new director. Also recognized was Sue Hansen who has been working hard on her own time on her President Elect training Rotary requires for all incoming club Presidents.
 
Terry Terry introduced our special music the Lumi Trio performing Alexander Arutiunian, Suite 1992. The Lumi Trio performers is sponsored by Michigan State University and is made up of Minhae Lee on piano, Ruby Yeh on clarinet and Daniela Diaz on violin. We were entertained by a condensed version of their 15 performance.
 
Melanie Dart introduced our speaker Valarie Marvin, the Historian and Curator of the Michigan State Capitol. Ms. Marvin’s presentation was titled “A Woman’s Place is Under the Dome’ which was a historical review our the role women played in our state and nationally as our country moved toward voting rights for all of our states inhabitants regardless of gender as well as race and ethnicity of American citizens. Ms. Marvin’s presentation was a fascinating and reminder of how our foremothers and forefathers thoughts and perspectives evolved as our state entered the union and the suffrage movement struggled to gain acceptance in our state to ultimately the first women joining the state legislature and executive branch. While many remember that in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution, the suffrage movement had to fight long and hard to gain the right to vote as well as gain rights to property ownership.
 
Ms. Marvin educated us that it is important to note that since our current capitol building was opened in 1879 with over 30 women worked at the capitol at that time. From the opening our capitol has four women who are ensconced on the dome representing agriculture, education, law, and arts, as women were long considered the perfect creation in nature. This was somewhat of a double-edged thought process, since while women are revered for their beauty and purity this led many to keep women out of certain spheres such a politics and governance due to the purity of their form.
 
Michigan while slow to recognize women’s rights, was at the forefront of the fight for these rights since joining the union in 1837. In Michigan women in Michigan have been actively perusing rights with Ernestine Rose in 1846 is credited with beginning the women’s suffrage movement in Michigan. When our state was formed those permitted to vote in our state were required to be a white male 21 and over, but slowly talk began to argue for expanding those rights to others residing in our state. Ernestine Rose put forth the idea that women should be considered equal citizens under government and advocated this in our original capitol building located in Detroit. In 1844 Michigan became one of the first states to pass a law granting equal rights to married women with respect retaining the right to own property upon entering a marriage. This is a right that many states took decades longer to grant similar rights to women.
 
Ms. Marvin reminded us that the suffrage movement was more than granting women the right to vote, but also right to property ownership and rights to guardianship of their own children. Education was key to the suffrage movement in our state led by many women including Lucinda Hinsdale Stone in arguing that women should have the right to attend public universities, especially considering that women paid taxes that funded these public institutions. She was joined by other women including M. Adele Hazlett who devoted her life purpose to stumping for the suffrage movement. This and many others led to Michigan to consider in 1874 the equal rights as an amendment to our state constitution, the vote was defeated by a vote of almost 4 against to 1 for adoption. Our states efforts did not go unnoticed by the rest of the country advocating for women’s suffrage. Susan B. Anthony spoke at our state capital twice in 1871 and again in 1887. Along the way others spoke out including Sojourner Truth and Anna Howard Shaw all advocating eloquently for the granting of equal rights to women in the State of Michigan.
 
As time went on many organizations joined the suffrage movement propelling the issue forward to eventually have an 1893 law granting the right for women to vote only in school and local elections, however this was limiting in that this right to vote in these elections only applied to women who could read and speak English. This was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court citing that the legislature did not have the right to create a new class of voter. In hindsight Ms. Marvin pointed out that it may have ultimately been a good thing due to the limitations included in this law.
 
In 1907 and 1908 Michigan held a constitutional convention, part of this convention allowed those in the suffrage movement to advocate for change to our constitution granting these suffrage rights. However, this ultimately failed by a vote of 57 against and 38 for inclusion. Then in 1912, Governor Chase Osborn, a suffrage advocate, demanded the legislature meet to consider the suffrage movement, unfortunately this again failed but the gap was narrowing. This issue appeared to fail on the concerns of some that women would be able to vote for alcohol prohibition causing our state to go dry. Well in fact this concern was for naught as in 1916 the state invokes prohibition by all male voters. Now that the men in our state had sobered up, this led to the passage of a law granting the right for women to vote in Presidential elections and puts another referendum on the ballot which passed in 1918.
 
This right to vote led to women not only voting but being elected to statewide agencies and the legislature. First to be elected to statewide office was Dora Stockman, who in 1919 was elected to the State Board of Agriculture. Then in 1921, Senator Eva McCall Hamilton was elected to the State Senate and in 1925 Cora Reynolds Anderson was the first women elected to our state’s House of Representatives. In 1950 and in 1952, Representative Charline White and Senator Cora Brown became the first black women elected to our legislature.
 
Ms. Marvin closed her presentation and with too many questions to address with the time we had left, President Julie asked Ms. Marvin if she would be able to answer questions through emails, to which Ms. Marvin graciously agreed. With that President Julie closed our weekly meeting with the tolling of the Rotary bell.
 
Additional questions that Ms. Marvin was kind enough to email the answers to be included.
 
Question from John Collins:  "To what degree, if any, was the women's suffrage movements impeded by other women who perhaps were in opposition or 'traditional' in their views?"
 
There were always a number of women - in fact in the beginning it was a majority of women - who refused to either support suffrage or even campaigned against it.  Many politicians and elected officials liked to quote the women who were opposed, saying "Well we wouldn't want to force the responsibility of voting on women who don't really want it."  Some of these women claimed that it would destroy their ability to remain politically neutral and have a sort of elevating effect on their communities.
 
Question from Uma Umakanth: " How was women's education supported/opposed/discouraged/encouraged by public and by government during these times?"
 
Oh - this is a really complicated issue.  In general, girls' access to education gradually improved throughout the 19th century.  U of M and MAC (now MSU) started admitting women in 1870 - too late for many, but still much sooner than many other colleges and universities across the country.
 
Many women crusaded for better education for their daughters in the belief that once women were better educated and informed, they would be prepared to take on the responsibilities as citizens. Many also hoped that better education would open up more job opportunities for women, as an increasing number needed to support themselves and their families.
 
I’d say that, in general, most people in Michigan didn’t have a problem with girls attending common schools (the 19th century version of elementary school). However very few boys or girls attended anything past that – like a high school, seminary, college, or university. Higher education was out of the reach of the average family.
 
There was a pretty significant campaign against the higher education of women in the 1870s and 1880s that went so far as to suggest that women who studied too much at a college or university would actually render herself unable to produce children. (Which was, of course, what all women were “supposed” to do. This was our primary purpose, according to some.) The “science” behind this was absurd . . . but many found that the argument suited their politics, and therefore perpetuated it regardless.
 
I’d say that Michigan’s government was probably more liberal when it came to promoting education for women than most . . . in fact the Legislature strongly urged the Board of Regents at U of M to open the university up to women several years before they did. I think this speaks in large part to the fact that Michigan was then still dominated by an interesting Yankee progressivism that believed strongly in public education.
 
Question from Kevin Schumacher: "For the Women who were first elected, was there a history in their family of political life?  I.e., following in family footsteps?"
 
Somewhat.  Many of the early women in government did have a general history of family service, but most of it was on the local level.  A couple had ancestors who served in state government.....but sometimes that service was in a different state.
 
In general, though, I suspect that most of them grew up in families or married spouses that were more politically aware.
 
Another Questions from Kevin Schumacher:  "How 'well' were the first women treated by their white male brethren when breaking through that barrier?"
 
That depends on who you asked.  In general these women were widely acknowledged as being significant for their accomplishments.  Did that always translate into day-to-day respect, equality, and equity?  I doubt it.
 
I'm sure that most of the men in the Capitol believed they were being fair, if not showing extra courtesy.  In fact some made a point of going - I'm sure they thought - above and beyond.  For instance, there were discussions about whether or not male legislators would continue to smoke in the Chambers once women started being elected.
 
How much of this kindness was thinly veiled resentment that women wouldn't embrace the building's culture and play by its male traditions?  Well....
 
I'm confident that all of these early women in government never forget that they were women, and that they were different.  They knew that government was considered an extremely masculine world, and that they were, in some ways, entering into the most powerful "old boys club" in the state.
 
I think it probably grew easier as the years passed.  It's a lot easier to be one of ten women in a department of one of two.  Or the first.  In fact I suppose this is one of the things that I wish historians would acknowledge more.  Yes, it is somewhat glamorous to be the first.  But it is also terribly, terribly hard.
 
Tim Adam's email is:  TAdams@manercpa.com