In February of 1861, President Abraham Lincoln visited the Ohio Statehouse. At the time, there was much debate among state
officials who questioned whether women should be allowed to attend the president's address for fear that they could not "withstand
the rigors of public debate." Back then, it was considered improper – or at least not customary – for women to so much as enter
the Statehouse, which was considered a man's place of business, unless accompanied by a male escort.
Statehouse legend has it that as crowds of men and women swarmed into the House chambers to hear President Lincoln, he refused
to give his speech unless women were allowed in as well.
And they were
Despite this short-lived triumph, women continued to be barred from entering the legislative chambers for 30 more years. It
wasn't until 1891 that women could freely witness legislative debate from the
balcony addition to the House Chambers built for visitors.
It took 103 years for women to move from the back of the chamber to the front, when
Jo Ann Davidson
was sworn in as Ohio's first – and thus far only – female speaker of the House of Representatives in 1994.
On June 16, 1919, Ohio became the 5th state to ratify the
granting women the right to vote. By 1923 women had claimed four seats in the Ohio House, and two in the Ohio Senate.