This August marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted (some) women the constitutional right to vote. As the season of celebrating suffrage continues, a podcast created by local researcher Katherine Durack reminds us of the influential role Ohio activists played in advancing the movement.
Named after one of the first U.S. periodicals published by a woman, The Genius of Liberty podcast is written and voiced by Durack and produced in partnership with The Mercantile Library. Durack’s storytelling takes the form of six-minute episodes; each clip highlights the contributions of a particular suffragist with emphasis on their connection to the Buckeye State.
Durack chronicles the accomplishments of women like Elizabeth A. Aldrich, a Cincinnati native and author of the historic newspaper from which the podcast gets its name. Featured in the second episode, Aldrich spent her life advocating for educational opportunities for women and writing feminist manifestos that urged for equal voting rights. She even had ties to The Mercantile Library, which, at the time, was branded “one of the first organizations West of the Alleghenies to support women’s rights”.
The podcast also highlights those who were excluded from the victory of the 19th amendment, specifically women of color who would have remained disenfranchised until the Voting Rights Act was passed almost half a century later in 1965. Anna Julia Cooper, often considered the mother of Black feminism, did some of her most important writing during her time at Oberlin College. In Xenia, she published her 1892 seminal work, A Voice from the South, a treatise which bravely challenged the racial inequalities within the suffrage movement. Rising to prominence as a scholar who tackled racial issues openly and unapologetically, Cooper eventually became one of the first African-American women to earn her doctorate of philosophy.
Last month’s episode dives into the achievements of Reverend Herbert S. Bigelow, a minister who presided over the Vine Street Congregational Church. Bigelow spoke at the 1906 National American Woman Suffrage Association’s annual convention, encouraging attendees to take an interest in Progressivism. His rousing addresses empowered the public, both men and women alike, to actively participate in the political process.
The Genius of Liberty comes at a crucial moment, both commemorating a national anniversary and looking forward to election day in November. There is no time like the present to remember the revolutionary efforts of those who fought for women’s suffrage—and their links to the great state of Ohio.
More information on the project and the most recent episodes of The Genius of Liberty podcast can be found on The Mercantile Library’s webpage.