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Grand Rapids Public Library Woman's Suffrage collection

Identifier: Collection 127

Scope and Contents

The collection details the struggle of women in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, as part of the national effort for women's suffrage. The bulk of the collection consists of publications including various suffragist magazines and bulletins as well as duplicates of material gathered by the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association.

It also contains letters written in response to an essay and song contest sponsored by the Grand Rapids Equal Franchise Club. The essay and songs, sung to patriotic tunes, proclaim the virtues of women and their right to vote.

The newspaper clippings and citations to clippings in local Grand Rapids newspapers provide further data on the local movement. Microfilm copies of Woman Weekly (21 November 1908 - 23 January 1909) are also included. This films copies original material in other Grand Rapids Public Library manuscript collections.

The collection also includes a 1975 student paper on the Grand Rapids suffrage movement from 1910-20 within the broader national suffrage movement context.

There is much history, however, that might be added to this collection, if resources are found, to document woman suffrage in Western Michigan before 1900.


  • 1899-1970

Biographical / Historical

The Woman's Suffragist Movement began with the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Fall, NY in 1848. It ended in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, following Tennessee's ratification. It was a long and difficult struggle. Michigan women had their own struggle until they were granted the right to vote in 1919 by the State Legislature. Women from Grand Rapids were instrumental in bringing about the success in the state.

The Grand Rapids Equal Franchise Club was formed in April 1910. This club spread literature and information about suffrage, which helped build local support for the movement. In 1914 the club sponsored a song and essay contest to further promote their efforts.

Michigan was an early supporter of women’s right. Senator Rix Robinson of Ada first proposed a suffrage amendment as early as 1849, perhaps mindful of the leadership of Madeline LaFramboise, who with her husband Joseph founded the first permanent trading post in Ada, Michigan in 1804, continuing it after his death. The State’s first bill for women’s suffrage came to the floor in 1866, but was defeated. An amendment actually passed in Michigan in 1870, but is vetoed by the Governor. It is proposed and defeated again in 1874 (1872?), the same year that Susan B. Anthony was arrested for trying to vote in Rochester, while Michigan’s Sojourner Truth was turned away when she attempted to vote in Battle Creek. Emily Burton Ketcham of Grand Rapids brought national leaders such as Susan B. Anthony to this city. (See the separate Ketcham Coll. 293). In 1884, Michigan Senator Thomas W. Palmer is said to be the first to make a speech in the U.S. Senate in support of woman’s suffrage. A suffrage amendment passed again in Michigan in 1893, to be struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court. After other defeats, Michigan finally granted women voting rights in 1918, two years before women were given these rights throughout the nation. A number of other prominent women and women’s groups achieved notable firsts, and/or lobbied and labored for women’s rights up to the time of this historical milestone.


0.67 Linear Feet (Two boxes)

Language of Materials



This is a small collection that sketches the participation of some Michigan women in the suffrage movement, primarily between 1908-1920. It focuses particular attention on the Grand Rapids area. Included are publications, such as the Michigan Suffragist, correspondence and convention literature.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Unknown and accessions 00.[2909].1, 2009.002

Related Materials

Coll. 036, Woman magazine

Coll. 054, Grand Rapids Public Library Photo Collection, contains a photograph of the Grand Rapids suffrage headquarters.

Coll. 078, “Votes for Women” float in 1910 Grand Rapids Homecoming Parade. 078-1.5-86.1

Coll. 185, Grand Rapids Public Library Copy Photograph Collection contains a portrait of suffragette Minnie R Mickel, (185-2-90)

Coll. 293, Ketcham family papers, including information on Michigan Suffragette Emily Burton Ketcham.

Finding Aid for the Grand Rapids Public Library Woman's Suffrage collection
Sherri Hunter
January 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History Center Repository

Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA