Friday, August 27, 2010

Rescuing Catherine Dinklage from the Basement!

A commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution needs to acknowledge the decades of hard work on the part of Allen County women to win the vote. Some of Indiana's earliest woman suffrage pioneers - Mary Frame Thomas, Beulah Puckett Ninde and her husband Lindley Ninde - were part of the state's and the nation's earliest efforts to win greater women's rights, including suffrage. Before the Civil War, soon after the first national women's rights meeting at Seneca Falls, New York, they organized state and local groups to bring about change. In the following decades as woman suffrage became associated with the temperance movement, efforts in Allen County were blocked by the growing power of the liquor industry.

At the turn of the 20th century, thanks to suffrage leaders from Cook County, Illinois, and local women's club leaders, the suffrage movement came back to life stronger than ever. By the time the 19th amendment was finally ratified, women in Allen County served on the local school board and on the board of health. Catherine E. Dinklage was elected to the city council, where she served a four year term.

Unfortunately, most of Allen County's pioneer women's rights leaders have slipped into oblivion. As far as we know, they did not keep diaries or write long letters detailing their experiences. Thanks to efforts to preserve contemporary newspapers, we nevertheless have records of their public efforts. Recovering their long and often frustrating years to win a role in public affairs is hard work. Finding photographs can be equally daunting. Take Catherine Dinklage as a case in point. Her only known picture is part of an official collage of city council members in the 1920s. Unfortunately, the last known sighting of this weighty monster was in the basement of the History Center. Shouldn't Catherine be rescued?

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