by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst
Dressed in the costume of an English Militant Suffragette, Mrs William Drake Hamilton, the former Ann Eliza Deshler, attended a celebration carrying a can of nitroglycerin, bricks, and bombs. Her husband, Dr. William Drake Hamilton, dressed as a “suffrage sympathizer,” carried a vote for women banner.
It was the 1910s and Ann Hamilton and her sister, Miss Martha Deshler, members of the Taxpayers’ League, an organization seeking equal suffrage, were among Bexley’s women in the fight for full enfranchisement. The daughters of Deshler Bank President John G. Deshler, whose home was at the corner of Parkview and East Broad Street, hosted suffrage meetings and dignitaries in Hamilton’s Bexley home.
The sisters, among those successful at petitioning Ohio’s Fourth Constitutional Convention to put the issue of equal suffrage before the voters, lost their fight in 1912, and when the votes were tallied Bexley proved “a non-suffrage town.”
Again, two years later, Ohio voters said no, but another Bexley pair had their eyes on a national amendment. Miss Florence Ralston, daughter of Ralston Steel Car Company President Joseph S. Ralston, who like the Hamilton’s lived on East Broad Street in Bexley, joined the College Equal Suffrage League as a student at Ohio State. In 1916 Florence and her mother attended the formation, in Washington D.C, of the National Women’s Party.
The mother and daughter pair were among those representing the local branch of the National Women’s Party at a 1918 meeting with then Senator Warren G. Harding at Columbus’ Southern Hotel. Though Harding did not fully commit to suffrage attendees were “encouraged” that a federal amendment would pass.
That October Senator Harding voted in favor of the Federal Suffrage Amendment, as he did in February and June of the following year. Ratified by the Ohio legislature on June 16, 1919 the women’s right to vote saw final ratification as the 19th Amendment in August of 1920.
For more about the history of the Women’s Suffrage Movement explore these titles recommended by Adult Services Librarian Sue Shipe-Giles:
- Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?: Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and the Fight for the Right to Vote by Tina Cassidy
- Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote by Ellen Carol DuBois
- Women’s Suffrage in America: An Eyewitness History by Elizabeth Frost-Knappman
- Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence by Kate Clarke Lemay
- Alice Paul: Claiming Power by J.D. Zahniser & Amelia R. Fry
Research for this article contributed by Scott King-Owen, Ph.D, Teacher, Bexley City Schools.