Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Nebraska Suffrage 101: Rheta Louise Childe Dorr

The next phase of Nebraska’s women’s suffrage story has a direct causal link to the wave of support shown for the cause in the 1860s through the 1880s.

Rheta Childe Dorr was born in Omaha in about 1868 to Edward Payson Child and Lucille Mitchell, who at the time lived at the International Hotel on 11th and Dodge.[1] She grew up amidst the high-profile speeches, parades, and conventions that were so common in Nebraska leading up to the 1882 vote for women’s suffrage. When she was twelve years old, she famously snuck out of her house one night to attend a speech given by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her name soon appeared in the newspaper as a new member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, having spent her only silver dollar to pay the dues.[2]

She would soon go on to study journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, staying active in women’s suffrage and other progressive causes. After two years in Lincoln, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in newspaper. She married John Pixley Dorr and briefly moved to Seattle, but when their marriage dissolved, she returned to New York City and became an investigative reported for the New York Evening Post. After leaving the Post in 1906, she traveled through Europe and began focusing more on the issue of suffrage, writing several pieces voicing the plight of working-class women. In 1910, these articles were assembled and published as a volume entitled What Eight Million Women Want.

Rheta Childe Dorr (right) and British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1913, she became the first editor of the new newspaper The Suffragist. This publication, founded by Alice Paul, provided national documentation of protests and arrests and also featured editorials and cartoons that depicted trends within the movement and brought women’s suffrage to an even wider audience.

Rheta Childe Dorr. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A 1917 issue of The Suffragist. Image courtesy https://depts.washington.edu/moves/NWP_project_ch1.shtml.

And because this year is an election year, you can show your appreciation for Rheta Childe Dorr’s work toward voting equality by making sure you’re registered to vote! https://vote.gov/

[1] Collins’ Omaha City Directory. Compiled by Charles Collins, July 4, 1868.

[2] Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, “Rheta Childe Dorr”, 2020. https://suffragistmemorial.org/rheta-childe-dorr-1868-1948/

Nebraska Suffrage 101: Early Stages

Women’s suffrage in Nebraska was a long battle, and in the weeks leading up to the centennial of 19th Amendment on August 26th, we’re going to explore some of the ins and outs of our state’s history throughout the suffrage movement.

National women’s suffrage movements began in 1848, but when progress in this nation-wide campaign slowed, many switched gears to target individual state governments, fighting for the ratification of suffrage on a state-by-state basis. In Nebraska, interest in the women’s suffrage movement dated as early as 1855, before the territory had even become a state. Interest was sparked when Amelia Bloomer (of female trouser fame) spoke that year at the Douglas House Hotel. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would come to speak in Omaha in the 1860’s, and many parades, conventions, and events were held in support of the movement.[1]

Amelia Bloomer. Image courtesy of the National Women’s History Museum, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/amelia-bloomer

This wave of interest culminated in the early 1880s when Erasmus M. Correll of Hebron, Nebraska (Thayer County) introduced a bill to the Nebraska House of Representatives that would open the question of women’s suffrage up to a state-wide vote. Correll founded the Lincoln-based Western Women’s Journal to support the initiative, and more nationally-known speakers came to Omaha to attend conventions held by the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association.

Erasmus Correll. Image courtesy of Thayer County Museum, accessed https://www.jstor.org/stable/23533583?seq=5#metadata_info_tab_contents

When the vote was put to the [all-male] electorate in November of 1882, it was soundly defeated 25,756 to 50,693.[2]

In the years following this defeat, many proponents of women’s suffrage focused their attention on other causes, such as temperance. It wouldn’t be until the 1910s that many of Nebraska’s iconic female suffragists would take the stage

And because this year is an election year, you can show your appreciation to the men and women who fought for decades for voting equality by making sure you’re registered to vote! https://vote.gov/

[1] National Parks Service. Nebraska and the 19th Amendment, https://www.nps.gov/articles/nebraska-and-the-19th-amendment.htm

[2] History Nebraska. Woman Suffrage, https://history.nebraska.gov/publications/woman-suffrage-0

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