Sunday, June 10, 2012

Belle Coit Kelton, suffragette

Isabella Coit had little choice but to become an advocate of women's rights. It was her destiny. From the time she could remember, her mother, Elizabeth Greer Coit, had been involved in enlarging "woman's sphere," and her home served as the meeting place of the Columbus Women's Suffrage Association with her mother presiding as President. A story was told about Belle. Having suffered cruel teasing at school over her mother's outspoken views, eight-year old Belle ran home to ask with tears in her eyes, "Mother are you strong-minded and do you wear pants?" "Well, my dear," Elizabeth replied, "I hope I am strong-minded. I should be very sorry to have had children if I were feeble-minded." While overcoming opposition to her application to the newly opened Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical School in 1874, Belle became one of a group of seven who were the first women to attend the new college. Belle married Frank Kelton in 1883 and moved in with his family at the 586 East Town Street residence. A year later with her mother, who was serving as a delegate, Belle attended the state women's suffrage convention held in Columbus. From 1885 until her death in 1901, Elizabeth served as Treasurer of the state organization. Meanwhile, Belle and her husband moved from their Town Street house after the death of her mother-in-law in 1888. They exchanged houses with Frank's older brother and took up residence on Monroe Street bringing Frank's sister Anna Kelton Pearce, a struggling novelist, along with them. Mother Elizabeth joined the group after the death of her husband and the little house on Monroe Street fairly teemed with feminist energy. In August of 1912, 5,000 women from all over the state arrived by train to participate in the 100th anniversary of Columbus by demonstrating for the right to vote. A new state constitution was being drafted that year, and Ohio women wanted their rights included. Belle helped to manage the largest parade of suffragists Columbus had ever seen. While the march was a success, the constitutional amendment granting women the vote failed the ballot in November. It would take eight more years before this right was realized. Belle continued to champion the cause. After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, she became an active member of the Franklin County League of Women Voters until her death at age one hundred. A plaque entitled "The Role of Honor" bearing the name of Belle and her mother along with many other Ohio women's rights advocates was erected at the State House by the League in 1930 to commemorate those who dedicated their lives to improving the station of women. Belle died of bronchial pneumonia". She made her first plane ride from San Diego to Columbus at the age of 92. Leslie Blankenship, Greenlawn Cemetery

No comments:

Post a Comment