Tag Archives: Ohio Historic Marker

FRANCES PAYNE BOLTON’S “PLACE” IN PRESERVATION

For Women's History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

For Women’s History month, celebrate Ohioan Frances Payne Bolton, historic preservation and environmental conservation advocate.

Meghan O’Connor of the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently reported “only 8% of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places embody underrepresented communities, including women.”[i]

Women, however, are approximately half the nation’s population. Further, they have historically been integral in promoting preservation of historic sites at the national level as well as state and local levels.

American women have historically asked questions about their role, their “place,” in American society as well as American history. We would do well to also ask with increasing vigor about women’s “place” in preservation and at historic sites. These are the most noticeable, nonverbal cues about our cultural values and legacy that we can offer to our population.

And so, in the spirit of introducing one woman’s “place” in preservation, I ask: What do former Ohio Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton and our first President George Washington have in common besides public service in national politics?

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An Ohio Historic Marker celebrating Victoria Claflin Woodhull stands in front of the Homer Public Library.

Did you know? First woman candidate for the U.S. Presidency was from Ohio

An Ohio Historic Marker celebrating Victoria Claflin Woodhull stands in front of the Homer Public Library.

An Ohio Historic Marker celebrating Victoria Claflin Woodhull stands in front of the Homer Public Library.

Who would have guessed that the first woman to run for the U.S. Presidency (1872), a nationally known campaigner for women’s suffrage and social justice, was born in the tiny community of Homer, Ohio?

Probably very few until the people of Homer had the foresight to erect an official Ohio Historic Marker in front of their library, reminding us of Victoria Claflin Woodhull and her commitment to women’s rights.

 

 

 

The main intersection in Homer, Licking County, Ohio

The main intersection in Homer, Licking County, Ohio

Homer, Ohio:  It’s a sleepy little place at the crossroads of two secondary rural highways and the Otter Run Fork of the Licking River, not far from where I was born and raised.  In just a few minutes, you can drive through this unincorporated community in Licking County, past the post office and the handful of clapboard commercial buildings at the intersection.  You might glance at the old brick school building that sits back a bit from the highway and, as you near the edge of town, you can see the United Methodist Church, an ancient cemetery, and the modern library where the historical society meets regularly.  This is, and was, quintessential Ohio farm country.

 

Victoria and her sister Tennessee were born in Homer, respectively in 1838 and 1845, to Roxanna and Reuben Buckman Claflin. Local legends abound about the Claflin family – that they were poverty-stricken, that the children only sporadically attended school, that Roxanna was a clairvoyant, that Buck burned down his own gristmill to collect insurance money, and that the family was semi-nomadic, using the children to sell homemade patent medicines, practice faith healing, and tell fortunes as part of their travelling medicine show.

 

Also according to local legend, community members “encouraged” the Claflins to leave Homer by raising funds at a benefit so that the family could join Buck who had been run out of town for alleged insurance fraud.  Can’t you just picture those scenes?  Do you think the fundraiser was held in the old town hall?  Or the church?

 

VictoriaInPrintWhatever the circumstances of her childhood in this minuscule town and what sounds to be an unusual family, Victoria rose above hardship to follow the courage of her convictions, some of which were considered exceptionally radical in the 19th century.  Many of her achievements were, and are, truly inspirational.

 

 

 

 

Victoria’s achievements (SOME of them):

  • First woman to run for the U.S. Presidency (1872) representing the Equal Rights Party (She lost to Ohioan and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.  After all, the amendment granting women the right to vote would not be ratified for another 48 years!)
  • First American woman to address Congress (1871)
  • As two of the first women stockbrokers in history, she and her sister Tennessee Claflin opened Woodhull, Claflin and Company on Wall Street in 1870 with the backing of railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt
  • Published the very successful Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly newspaper promoting a plethora of social justice issues
  • Leading membership in the National American Woman Suffrage Association and International Workingman’s Association

 

Victoria’s advocacy:

  • Woman suffrage
  • Equal educational opportunity for women (how keenly must she have felt her lack of it?)
  • Women’s right to control their own health decisions, including birth control
  • Labor reform including an 8-hour workday
  • Divorce law reform
  • Free love (can’t you just hear the consternation of the people of post-Civil War Ohio over that?)

 

Homer, Licking County, Ohio

Homer, Licking County, Ohio

So, the next time you drive through a tiny little burg, or across a lonely countryside, and see an Ohio Historical Marker, take a moment to stop and read it.  Who knows what rich, complex heritage it will reveal about a place that may seem quiet and unassuming?  I always appreciate the inspiration these marker stories provide, as well as the commitment of the community members who did the research, writing, and fundraising to bring you an important message about their/our heritage.

 

 

Like to know more about Homer, Ohio?  Visit the Homer Public Library at http://www.homer.lib.oh.us

 

Like to know more about Victoria Claflin Woodhull?  Visit the:

National Women’s History Museum at http://www.nwhm.org

National Women’s Hall of Fame at http://www.greatwomen.org

New York Times obituary at http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0923.html

Ohioana Library Association at www.ohioana.org

Ohio Center for the Book at www.ohiocenterforthebook.org

Ohio History Central at www.ohiohistorycentral.org

Ohio Memory at www.ohiomemory.org

Remarkable Ohio at www.remarkableohio.org

Women Working, 1800-1930, Harvard University Library Open Collections Program, at http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/woodhull.html

OR

Our own Ursuline College Besse Library for access to published biographies.