Diaries recounting everyday life; letters written to husbands, brothers and friends who left for war; text of speeches given at temperance and women’s suffrage rallies; and records of clubs and professional associations are just some examples of manuscripts in the Ohio Historical Society’s archival collections created by Ohio women. Spanning from the early 1800s to the late 1900s these documents tell women’s stories in their own voices.
Lydia Arnold Handy, who came to the Vermillion area in the 1830s, wrote about her religious visions and conversations with God. Charlotte Ellsworth Lewis of Hudson described her life as a single woman working as a seamstress, including her finances, in diaries spanning 1879 to 1892. Zell X. Corey wrote about her chores and social activities in Depression era Springfield.
Women’s political achievements are well represented in the manuscript collections. There are the papers of Viola D. Romans, a temperance lecturer, who became the first woman elected to represent Franklin County in the Ohio General Assembly in 1925. Collections from Ellen Walker Craig of Urbancrest, the first African American woman to be elected to the office of mayor in the United States, and Gertrude W. Donahey, the first woman in Ohio elected to a statewide office when she became state treasurer in 1971, are housed at OHS. The papers of former Ohio Governor and First Lady, Bob and Hope Taft, illustrate the role of a modern politician’s wife as a campaign worker and social activist.
Records of women working in a variety of professions in the 1800s and 1900s are found in the manuscript collections. There are the letters written to her family in Cardington by Evva Kenney Heath when she was teaching school, and later training to be a lawyer; the papers of two sisters from Columbus, Kenyon Hayden Rector, an architect, and Gillette Hayden, a dentist; and information about the work of doctors Emma Frances Young Owsley of Dayton and Francis Janney Derby.
Some collections preserve and tell the stories of women with very unique life experiences. In the Hopley Family Papers is material related to Georgia Hopley, a temperance activist who became one of a small group of female prohibition agents in the 1920s. The records of Miss Wheelchair America, Inc. celebrate the accomplishments of women with physical handicaps. The Jacquelyn Mayer Collection shares how Mayer of Upper Sandusky won the Miss America pageant in 1962, but saw her promising entertainment career curtailed when suffered from a stroke. The Scheuer Family Papers consists of material collected by the family of college student Sandra Scheuer to tell the story of her life and death after she was killed on May 4, 1970 at Kent State University.
Researchers are encouraged to search the Online Collection Catalog for manuscript collections documenting the remarkable lives of Ohio women.