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An Early Women's Rights Group

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An Early Women's Rights Group


history, miscellaneous


The women's lib movement of these times brings to mind a much older pioneer effort along these lines. The women's suffrage movement of the 19th century sought to have the women's political, civil and property rights equal to those that the men had had for generations. The first local organization of this type in the South appeared in Richmond, Ky.

In 1879, just a few years after the end of the Civil War, no less personage than Susan B. Anthony herself arrived in Richmond to be a houseguest of Mrs. Mary B. Clay in answer to a request from several ladies of prominent families. A meeting in the Clay home resulted in the formation of the Madison County Equal Rights Association, with Mrs. Clay as president. Other charter members who were brave enough to show up and take a public stand were Mrs. Rollins Burnam, Mrs. Mary Ann Collins, Mrs. Lester Sommers, Mrs. E. E. McCann and Mrs. Martha Haley. From this six-member start, the Richmond organization grew until later it had several hundred active members.

In 1911, the Madison County group was very much in evidence at the Kentucky State Suffrage Convention in Covington. Mrs. Mary B. Clay, Mrs. James Bennett, Mrs. A. C. Buchannan and Miss Louise Covington all spoke to the convention and were influential in determining the plans and the statements of purpose for the state group. Mrs. Clay was elected vice-president of the convention. One of the major plans was to launch a campaign to enable women to vote in local school board elections.

Speaking of that 1911 state women's suffrage convention, A. D. Miller, the editor of the Richmond Climax stated that "one of the most representative bodies of women ever gathered in the State or in this country are there...for their mission is a vital one and there is no dilly-dallying as is so noticeable in a convention."


Dr. Robert Grise





Dr. Robert Grise, “An Early Women's Rights Group,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed January 15, 2021,