back to home
(suffrage icon)1921

Old city hall

Meanwhile a state convention on a large scale was organized and held in Milwaukee. It was arranged by two young professional women of Milwaukee, Dr. Laura Ross, a physician, and Miss Lila Peckham, a lawyer whose early death was a great loss to the suffrage cause. Dr. Ross had come to Milwaukee to practice in 1858, the third woman, it is said, in the United States to receive a medical degree, and perhaps the first to practice medicine in a western state. Later she married Dr. E. B. Wolcott, the distinguished surgeon. She was for many years an influential figure in the struggle for woman's rights in Wisconsin.

The convention was held February 24 and 25, 1869, in the old city hall. National leaders appeared in force, the speakers including Mary A. Livermore, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A Waukesha gentleman, member of my own family, who as a lad strayed into this convention two evenings, remembers flattening himself against the wall because the chairs were all occupied, the audience being made up mostly of women. Unfortunately he remembers little more. At this convention a committee was appointed to draft a constitution and elect a state organization. Its chairman was a Congregational clergyman, the Reverend John Allison. It was probably at this convention that the Woman Suffrage Association of the State of Wisconsin came into existence, the earlier organization at Janesville having died with the defeat of the amendment to the state constitution.14

After the Milwaukee convention had concluded its sessions the national speakers went on to Madison, where the legislature was in session, and gave addresses before that body on the evening of February 26. Six of the Milwaukee women, including Dr. Ross and the Reverend Augusta Chapin accompanied the speakers. Governor Lucius Fairchild, then and later a friend of woman suffrage, presided at the meeting. It had been hoped to influence the legislature to pass a bill granting school suffrage to women; but such a bill was defeated in the senate on the day before the suffrage meeting at the capitol.15

State Street, Milwaukee, 1870

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susan B. Anthony

14 The minutes of this convention are in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Feb. 24 and 25. See also Mrs. Stanton's letters in Husted and Anthony, History of Woman Suffrage (N. Y., 1882). II, 373-75.

15 A full report of the Madison meeting is in the Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 27, 1869; also in Mrs. Stanton's letters, as cited above.