by Michele Yamamoto
At the Bay Village Historical Society, we made an unexpected discovery while archiving the college diploma of Elizabeth Hughes Cahoon. The backing used inside the frame for Elizabeth’s diploma was from the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s. The poster reads “Vote for Woman Suffrage Amendment 3 on Nov. 3.” A look into Amendment 3 led us to discover this political campaign poster was referring to an attempt in 1914 to initiate an Ohio state constitutional amendment to provide women the right to vote. Suffragists up to this point had been trying to pass state initiatives such as this one to compel the United States Congress to submit a federal amendment. Fifteen other states managed to pass suffrage ballot measures. The amendment cited on the poster was the second attempt to extend the suffrage to women in the state of Ohio. The first attempt on September 9, 1912 failed. The November 3, 1914 attempt also failed, with 60% of the male only voters voting against it, about 3% more than in 1912.
Elizabeth (b. 1830, d. 1914) joined the Cahoon family when she married Thomas Havenner Cahoon (b. 1832, d. 1907) in 1860. Thomas was the son of Joel and Martha Cahoon, the second-generation homeowners of Rose Hill. Before marriage, Elizabeth graduated from Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati in 1852 with a degree of Mistress of English Literature. This was no ordinary feat in the 1800s, a time during which most American women were discouraged from attending institutions of higher learning.
Knowing her background, it makes one wonder if she supported the 1914 measure or maybe even campaigned for it. Elizabeth attended college during the very early years of the suffrage movement, which appears to have had a strong presence in Ohio. In a college journal entry from January 11, 1851, Elizabeth wrote that she attended a meeting at a public lecture hall during which she “heard much of woman’s wrongs and rights.” Interestingly, in May of that year, there was an Ohio Woman’s Rights Convention held in Akron, during which abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Sojourner Truth, spoke.
Elizabeth Hughes Cahoon died on October 4, 1914, one month before the outcome of the November vote. She is buried in the Bay Village Lakeside Cemetery. Almost six years later, on August 26, 1920, the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is certified. It prohibits government from denying or abridging the right to vote on account of sex.
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