In honor of March marking Women’s History Month, there a number of Highland County women who broke boundaries and accomplish amazing things.
In the 1800s and much of the 1900s, women were seen as accessories of the household and not much more. Access to education, the workforce, and entertainment were restricted to females. One Highland Weekly News article from 1859 declared, “No girl can become a true lady without knowledge of household duties… It is her business to know how to wash, and cook, and sew. What shall we say of the female who occupies the place of mistress of the family, without knowing the work therefore should be done? We say it is a dishonor to her. She is less of a lady for this inexcusable ignorance.”
It’s clear that attitudes about women have greatly progressed in the past century. The roles of females have changed as well as their access to traditionally male-dominated areas. Throughout these changing times, Highland County produced some early female leaders, including Elizabeth Edmonston, the first woman physician in Hillsboro. Activists like the temperance movement’s Eliza Jane Thompson and the famous New York suffragette Wenona Marlin hailed from small towns in Highland County.
And then there were Hillsboro’s Marching Mothers, Black mothers who protested the segregation of Hillsboro’s elementary schools from 1954 to 1956. Their lawsuit against the school board was the first northern test case of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, which had declared school segregation illegal. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and the Marching Mothers emerged victorious.
In 2017, 55 people from Lincoln School who marched in the mid-1950s for integration were inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Through old records of Highland County newspapers, the progression of equality can be viewed from year to year. In 1887, a guest journalist for the News-Herald asserted, “It would be quiet absurd for a woman to be a doctor for a man.”
Nearly a century later, women had gained the right to vote, yet still struggled for workforce equality. As one 1977 article states, “Thousands of women demanding equal rights are marching down Pennsylvania Avenue… to meet President Carter.”
But the wisest sentiment comes from a 1914 snippet: “When it is considered that girls belong to what is now known as the weaker sex, it is remarkable with what ease and how forcibly they can throw down a strong man.”
Information for this story came from newspapers.com.
Isabella Warner is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.