When thinking of the early days of campus life, it is easy to distance ourselves from those who were here at the turn of the century. Women on campus had to live in dorms with few exceptions, endure strict curfew rules, and were not allowed to leave the city without special permission. Despite the restrictions to their campus life, women on campus decided to take part in gaining the right to vote. So, they created the suffrage club.
On April 14th, 1916, the newly created suffrage club met for the first time. Around 150 women showed up to vote Ava Johnson as the president, Jeanette Knapp as the secretary, and Katherine McCarrell as treasurer. During the meeting, Dean Katharine McKay and those listed above spoke to the crowd. They goal of the club “was stated to be the support of the suffrage movement in Iowa with particular emphasis on the securing of pledges of votes favoring the suffrage measure to be submitted to the voters of the state in the June election.” One of the first speakers brought in by the “suffrage boosters” was Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the American Woman Suffrage association and former student of Iowa State, for a highly anticipated lecture at the university.
Despite having 150 women at the first meeting, there is little mention of this suffrage club in the archives and no mentions of it in the Bomb (the yearbook). Ava Johnson, who was the president of the club graduated in 1916, but the suffrage club was not listed within her group involvement.
Nor is the club mentioned when Jeanette Knapp or Katharine McCarrell are listed the following year.
This was not the only suffrage club in Ames, but it is only one created by students at Iowa State. All the clubs in Ames, including the suffrage club, were focused on securing the votes for suffrage during the June 1916 election. The results of the vote were 2671 votes in favor of suffrage in Story County, while only 1606 voted against.
If you are a part of an Iowa State club or organization and have documents (any inactive records, meeting minutes, photographs, etc.) pertaining to the club, then please bring them to Special Collections on the fourth floor of Parks Library. Those records can be stored for future generations to have a better understanding of your club.
Original Post: Ghosts of the Suffrage Club
Publication Date: September 14, 2018
- Artifact Collection, 2002-R001.025, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.
- Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts. Bomb. Ames, Iowa State University, 1916.
- Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts. Bomb. Ames, Iowa State University, 1917.
- Iowa State University. Student Organizations – Political and Social Action Organizations records, Subject files, RS 22/4/0/1, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives.