May 13 , 2020 I  I 616-574-7307
NAWSA Comes to Grand Rapids
In 1899 suffragists from across the nation descended on Grand Rapids for the annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association! From April 27th through May 4th, they filled the new auditorium at St. Cecilia Music Society and sported badges of sunflower gold in honor of Kansas, which state had granted its women municipal suffrage in 1887.
Badge, N.A.W.S.A 1899 convention
Susan B. Anthony had already been to Grand Rapids many times, beginning in 1873 during the first serious push to enfranchise the state’s women. She had also brought other national leaders to Grand Rapids to enhance state conferences; but in 1899 she led the entire national movement here for its first and only meeting in Michigan, for only the third time NAWSA had ever met outside Washington DC. 
N.A.W.S.A convention, St. Cecilia Auditorium
The spring meeting was held in the spacious, new 700-seat auditorium of St. Cecilia Music Society. After the Civil War in 1869, some Grand Rapids women had formed a self-education group to compensate for women’s lack of opportunity for a higher education in the mid-19th-century. Reorganized as the Ladies Literary Club, they built a club house downtown; then their more musical members spun off and formed St. Cecilia Music Society. Suddenly, local women had enough space under their own control to invite the nation’s women to their auditorium. St. Cecilia built it; NAWSA came!

Read more about the 1899 NAWSA visit in Melissa Fox’s recent article in the May issue of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine ! The whole city stepped up to entertain its guests—the Board of Trade offered carriage tours, Delos Blodgett offered Susan B. Anthony housing, and twelve city churches opened their pulpits to the suffrage gospel! 
 More on Suffragists at St. Cecilia!
GGRWHC has been delighted during the 2020 centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment to share our years of research uncovering the diligent and creative work of Grand Rapids suffragists. Their work intersected closely with long, entangled state and national efforts.
If you haven’t yet visited our new digital suffrage exhibit, check it out now! This link will take you directly to a vignette with more information about the 1899 meeting in Grand Rapids ; this next link will place that year’s story into its immediate context . Then, check out the whole digital exhibit ! Sample the entire sweep of the local movement and its intersections with the 72-year-long national history.

You will find a city abuzz with activity during Michigan's first statewide campaign for equal voting rights in 1874; local suffragists striding onto the state’s center stage during the 1880s and 1890s; and their promotional hijinks but steadfast leadership statewide during the last decade. Check out the Grand Rapids “Lilly Float for Suffragists” gliding past 75,000 spectators in 1910, a newspaper takeover in 1914, and a national stir caused by the lone African American delegate to the NAWSA convention in 1899. 

Come back next week for GGRWHC’s Women’s History Wednesdays to read about the lone African American delegate, Lottie Wilson Jackson.
Women’s History Wednesdays!
So who was responsible for enticing NAWSA to Grand Rapids? Who engineered the proposal that beat out Cincinnati, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New Orleans? Grand Rapids native Emily Burton Ketcham!
Emily Burton Ketcham, 1899
You will find a lot about Ketcham in our digital suffrage exhibit (see above); but for a quick look at this suffrage dynamo who led both Grand Rapids and Michigan organizations, and who travelled for the cause nationally from coast to coast, see our feature in the March issue of Women’s Lifestyle Magazine.
N.A.W.S.A, Matthew Brady studio, Ketcham right end in front
Not only did Ketcham travel to a Boston suffrage bazaar, to the California campaign, to Washington DC to address the Judiciary Committee, and to the Chicago Exposition as a special guest of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show; she was the Michigan suffragist who represented our state on the national level of NAWSA’s executive committee. Hats off to Emily Burton Ketcham!
GGRWHC’s program year honoring the 19th Amendment centennial has been interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We regret especially the loss of the August 26th celebration, but please stay tuned. And, for now, please stay home and stay safe. Celebrate with the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council virtually and in print!

Watch for Women’s History Wednesdays via this electronic newsletter, follow us on Facebook, watch for our monthly features in Women’s Lifestyle Magazine , and click here to receive our hard-copy newsletter and become a supporting member of GGRWHC!
Stay home and stay safe--but celebrate with us virtually and in print! 
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