With the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment coming up in 2020, the history of women’s suffrage is being re-examined across the nation. At the state level, groups such as Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust have launched initiatives to research and document the tangible connections in the fight for women’s voting rights. Since March is Women’s History Month, it is an appropriate time to identify and celebrate some of the women’s suffrage sites in Frederick, a history that has for the most part not been well-documented. The local women’s suffrage movement began to coalesce and gain publicity in the early 20th century, and that is where we will pick up this story that began many decades before.
In the summer of 1910, Miss M.L. Manning, field secretary of the Just Government League of Maryland, came to Frederick and went from house to house interviewing the city’s men and women and recording her impressions. The Just Government League of Maryland was founded in 1909 by Edith Houghton Hooker as an affiliate of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Manning was internationally known for her work for women’s suffrage in her native Australia. It was reported that Miss Manning stopped in at 205 E. Second St., a boardinghouse operated by Margaret Young, in September. It is unknown if Manning simply stayed for a time at the boardinghouse while she worked in Frederick or if Mrs. Young or one of her boarders was a supportive contact for the local suffrage effort. It appears that Miss Manning concluded her Frederick tour with a lecture on Australia, including progressive suffrage legislation, in Kemp Hall on Sept. 16, 1910. Kemp Hall was the site of another suffrage lecture in 1913 by Miss Alice Carpenter, another suffragist prominent at the national level.
On Nov. 28, 1910, Edith Houghton Hooker, founder and president of the Just Government League, came to Frederick to speak to the Frederick Female Seminary Alumnae and the Art Club at the YMCA and to plead for the establishment of a local branch. Once the local branch was formed early the following year, the YMCA would become the site of many of the chapter’s meetings over the ensuing decade. The YMCA stood at the southeast corner of Church and Court streets (it was destroyed by fire in the 1970s). The Frederick branch of the Just Government League was formerly established in one of the classrooms at the Women’s College, which was housed at this time in Winchester Hall, East Church Street, in March 1911. Twelve directors were appointed to conduct monthly meetings and about 50 women had demonstrated interest in membership. On Oct. 6, 1911, the Just Government League hosted the Rev. Dr. Anna H. Shaw, president of the National Suffrage Association and prominent leader in the movement. She spoke in the Women’s College Hall to a large audience after being introduced by Miss Florence Trail.
Florence and Bertha Trail, daughters of Charles E. Trail, were active in the local suffrage movement from the founding of the local branch of the Just Government League until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Florence served as president of the branch for many years and the sisters hosted many suffrage meetings at their home at 106 E. Church St. For example, on Sept. 3, 1913, Elizabeth King Ellicott, prominent Maryland suffragist and president of Equal Suffrage League of Baltimore, spoke to a well-attended meeting in the sisters’ parlor to kick off her campaign through the “mountain section of the State.” On May 2, 1914, the sisters hosted a meeting on the lawn of their home as part of a nationwide demonstration in support of the Bristow-Mondell Resolution where Baltimore suffragist Miss Emma Harris Jamison made a spirited address. They then hosted Philadelphia suffragist Miss Anna T. Harding on March 13, 1916.
On June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed and sent to the states for ratification. The county courthouse, in the building that now serves as City Hall, made another appearance in the local suffrage movement when it served as the site of a woman’s suffrage rally on Dec. 16, 1919. U.S. Sen. Kenneth McKellar, of Tennessee, a strong advocate for women’s voting rights, was the featured speaker, along with Miss Maud Younger, a prominent suffragist from California and leader in the National Women’s Party. A resolution was adopted calling for the county’s legislators to vote for ratification of the amendment. On Feb. 20, 1920, Maryland voted against ratification. The following May, Florence Trail announced what was likely the last meeting of the Frederick Just Government League, held at the Frederick Armory, since 35 states had since ratified the amendment. By August, the required 36 states ratified the amendment, giving women the right to vote. Maryland did not ratify the amendment until 1941.
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