Jennie Mitchell Kellogg. Elizabeth R.Holderman. Louise Kelly. Marguerite Duguid. Rachel Allen. Ella Cole Dunlap. Bertha Dunlap Lord. Minnie Estelle Parker McCown.
Probably, these names do not make sense even for long-time residents of Lyon County. But thanks to the Women’s Suffrage Cemetery Tour on Friday night, August 26, Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery came alive with their stories. Led by Lyon County History Center Deputy Director Lisa Soller, the tour provided insight into the lives of these early activists.
Many Lyon County women were part of the suffrage movement from the late 1860s until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
“There was no membership list,” Soller said, “but a newspaper report indicated there were 150 members locally.”
Teresa Briggs, representing the League of Women Voters, brought welcome refreshments to the tour group.
The word “suffrage” comes from the Latin “suffragium”: right or privilege to vote. However, the word “suffragette” was first popularized in Britain as a pejorative term for women seeking the right to vote.
In the United States, the Declaration of Sentiment of 1848 was the first written document that formalized the women’s movement. Kansas became a state in 1861, less than 15 years later. The original Kansas state constitution gave women the right to vote in local school board elections.
Kansas also introduced an amendment for black suffrage and women’s suffrage. Influential East Coast women – from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott – flocked to Kansas to campaign for women’s rights.
This angered many prominent local men, such as Jacob Stotler, Preston B. Plumb and Marshall Murdock.
“I keep imagining family meals at the Plumb house,” Soller reflected. “Preston Plumb, adamantly against women’s suffrage, seated across from his sister Ellen Plumb, a longtime and well-known supporter of women’s rights.”
Local men pushed back against the “Manhood Suffrage” movement in 1867. Yet Kansas was the first state to include women’s suffrage on the ballot that year. The results? For women’s suffrage, there were 209 “For” votes and 565 “Against” votes. For black suffrage, however, the vote was 503 “for” and 273 “against”.
In 1887, women won the right to vote in local municipal elections in Kansas. That same year, Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas. Only men could vote in this election, however – yet she won by a landslide on a writing!
1911 and 1912 were pivotal years for suffrage in Kansas, which passed by only a narrow margin in 1912. Local women threw themselves wholeheartedly into the campaign movement. One thing that helped the passage was that suffragettes were joining temperance unions. In Dry Kansas, that may have helped sway the outcome.
Kansas has become the eighth state in the nation to ratify women’s suffrage.
On the tour’s first headstone, that of Jennie Mitchell Kellogg, Soller noted that finding the women’s gravesites was made more difficult because, in the journalistic style of the time, they were referred to by the names of their husbands. For example, Jennie Mitchell Kellogg was called Mrs. Lyman Kellogg.
Jennie’s husband was the first president of Kansas State Normal School. It was a second marriage for both of them, and she was nine years his junior. Jennie studied law under Lyman, becoming the first woman to practice law before the Supreme Court of Kansas. In 1888, she became assistant attorney general of Kansas.
Elizabeth R. Holderman never married. She was one of the first families to settle in the department of Lyon and she was active in civic clubs throughout her life. Elizabeth outlived all of her siblings by 27 years. She has no headstone.
“It breaks my heart,” Soller said. “So many women buried here but no headstone.”
Louise Kelly’s grave was next visited. After losing her husband and two little girls, she somehow learned that there was a job opening at Kansas State Normal School in Emporia. Still grieving, she came west and landed the job of college librarian in 1883. She was a professional woman throughout her life, eventually remarrying Dorman Kelly.
Margaret Duguid’s headstone curiously shows no date of death. A shrewd businesswoman, she built the Ek building in the 400 block of Commercial in 1912. She was very wealthy and successful in business. She was nearly 100 when she died, but lived long enough to see women gain the right to vote.
Lyon County History Center Director J. Greg Jordan noted as we walked to the next grave that the southeast portion of Maplewood was traditionally the black portion of the cemetery. It wasn’t segregated, he pointed out, “just a lot of the black population congregating here.”
Rachel Allen is buried there in Block 12, although there is no headstone. Her husband, Reverend James Allen, pastor of St. James Baptist Church, is buried in the Potter’s Field section of Maplewood, as are at least one of their children.
“It was a pleasant surprise to find a local black women’s suffrage association,” Soller noted. “Rachel was president of the Colored Equal Suffrage Association.”
Ella Cole Dunlap came to Emporia early in her life in 1870. She was orphaned at the age of five and lived with an uncle. He brought her to the area because “it didn’t seem right” for a bachelor and a little girl to live alone under the same roof. Ella helped establish the Emporia YWCA and the first municipal library. She was active with suffrage and a close friend of famous women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. His daughter, Bertha Lord, buried in the same family plot, was also heavily involved in the suffrage movement. The Dunlaps built the Tudor-style house on the southwest corner of 12th and Rural.
Minnie Estelle Parker McCown’s gravestone was the last stop on the tour. Minnie was active in many women’s clubs and organizations, including the Kansas Authors Club. She was one of the top sellers of Liberty Bonds during World War I.
Many of the women featured on the tour survived until the suffrage was passed but died soon after, such as Ellen Plumb, a single wife and sister of U.S. Senator Preston B. Plumb. She was treasurer of the local suffrage organization for many years and a successful independent businesswoman who oversaw the construction of her own home. Ellen Plumb died in 1913, a year after women won the vote in Kansas.
“Baby steps and tenacity – they continued to build on the small victories of the women’s movement,” Soller said. “It was women who led the charge for women’s suffrage. I can’t imagine a world in which women don’t have the right to vote.
For more information about the Lyon County History Center and upcoming programs, contact them at 620-340-6310, stop by 711 Commercial Street, or visit them online at explorelyoncounty.org.