January 5, 2021 I www.ggrwhc.org I 616-574-7307
 Suffrage Achieved!
More Women Run for Elective Office
Today, on the very centennial date of the seating of Eva McCall Hamilton as the first woman elected to the Michigan Senate, we offer a biographical photo album and a peek at our newly launched web page, WOMEN WHO RAN! We honor Hamilton today, but you will see that we have a lot more honoring—and centennials--in the pipeline. Now, hats off to a trailblazer!

Hamilton holds the reins of the 1910 parade float of the newly reorganized suffrage movement in Grand Rapids, the Equal Franchise Club. In one of the nation's earliest examples of suffrage parading, the float was followed by 75 suffragists in bunting-laden cars. They were off to an energetic start and kept up the pace through the Michigan referendum of 1918.

Hamilton is front and center at the 1912 Michigan state suffrage referendum office in Grand Rapids. It handled three tons of literature--twice, counting repackaging. After the state's male voters turned down this referendum in 1912 by under 1000 votes, it took until 1918 for Michigan women to be fully enfranchised--almost two years prior to the federal Nineteenth Amendment. 

Hamilton's candidacy business card is an example of early self-promotion by women candidates. Only because the state's men had already enfranchised its women in 1918 was Hamilton able to run for the state senate in 1920. Had she depended upon the Nineteenth Amendment in August 1920, it would have been too late to run that year. She was the first woman ever elected--and the only for nearly thirty years. It took 98 more years for the city of Grand Rapids to elect another woman: Winnie Brinks in 2018.
At the back center, Hamilton stands at a bill signing by Gov. Alex Grosbeck. Of the fifteen bills that she introduced during 1921-22, seven were enacted into law. Hamilton had been the first woman ever appointed to a city board, and her experience on committees served her well in the legislature. In Grand Rapids, she worked successfully to establish the first farmers market. In Lansing, she promoted “modern business methods in every department of the State Government” and worked to increase teachers’ salaries and to change the Mother's Pension Act.
Born in 1871, Hamilton died in 1948. Upon her death, when no other woman senator had yet been elected, Hamilton was honored with the first portrait of a woman to hang in the Capitol. In 1995, that portrait was replaced with the one you see here--and can see on any tour of the Capitol building in Lansing. Current Senator Winnie Brinks, only the second woman to represent Grand Rapids in the senate, says she feels "proud to work with Eva . . . . I always kind of look over there and give her a nod. She was such a trailblazer."
Read more about Eva McCall Hamilton on our new webpage--Women Who Ran--and place her among 46 other Grand Rapids women who ran 82 campaigns for public office between 1887 and 1920. Not only will you find more detail and documentation about Hamilton, you will discover four other women who also ran for state offices during those years, including the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the UM Board of Regents. Three women even ran for national positions, although most campaigns were local. Sort alphabetically, chronologically, by political office, occupation, marital status, reform activity, and party affiliation. And learn that there were more political parties then--have you ever heard of a Farmer-Labor Party in Grand Rapids? Visit ggrwhc.org!
Listen to Senator Brinks in person during a ten-minute centennial feature presented by WOOD TV8. On the August 26th centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment WOOD featured the 2020 centennial of Hamilton’s election. You will also find more images here: www.woodtv.com
And read more in the January issue of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine! On page 15, GGRWHC member and women’s history researcher Jayson Otto offers more on Hamilton, a woman hard to capture in few words! www.womenslifestyle.com
As a final tip of your hat, watch for the WGVU link from January 5th to catch a conversation about Hamilton between Morning Show host Shelley Irwin and GGRWHC guest Susan Coombes. (Then you could always google . . . !)
Because the challenges of the past year continue, the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council is inching into 2021 programming—but stay tuned. We will offer some virtual presentations in the spring. And in all aspects of our work, we will continue to honor the long and costly battle for the right to vote and run for office for all women, at the same time we pause to reconsider how to more fully and effectively embrace the women’s histories of our entire community.
Please continue to celebrate with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council virtually and in print! Watch for us via this electronic newsletter; follow us on Facebook; find our monthly features in Women’s Lifestyle Magazine; and sign up for our hard-copy newsletter, if you haven’t already – at ggrwhc.org! Stay tuned, stay safe, and stay exercised! 
Stay home and stay safe--but celebrate with us virtually and in print! 
GGRWHC |  www.ggrwhc.org  | 616-574-7307
Hats off to the historical women who have shaped West Michigan!
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