Bexley Women in the Fight for Suffrage

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 nitro-glycerin, bricks and bombs.

Her husband, Dr. William Drake Hamilton, dressed as a “suffrage sympathizer” carried a Votes for Women banner.

It was the 1910’s 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. Deschler (whose home was at the northwest 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.”

Two years later, Ohio voters, again, 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 of the National Women’s Party, in Washington DC.

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 the 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 1920.

adapted from Article by David Distelhorst, Local History Librarian,
Bexley Public Library
Research contributed by Scott King-Owen, Ph.D
Bexley City Schools

Originally published in Historical Herald, Fall 2020

A Further Comment Heritage, the newsletter of Green Lawn Cemetery, Summer 2020 issue, devotes much space to the Fight for Suffrage movement. Doreen Uhas Sauer’s article features both those women who supported suffrage and those who were opposed. Among the latter was Mrs. Joseph (Celia) Jeffrey and members of the Kilbourne family. Mrs. Jeffrey’s son, Robert (builder of Jeffrey Mansion), was married to Alice Kilbourne.

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