Brodhead's Feminists

When Brodhead Was Young
By Dan Nerhaugen

originally published June, 1999

Local women fought for the vote

The Brodhead area was a hotbed of feminism 100 years ago this week.

The June 29, 1899 Brodhead Independent reported on the activities of the county Woman Suffrage Association (W.S.A.) under the headline "GREEN COUNTY W.S.A."

The article in that week's paper ran, "The meeting of the Green County Equal Rights Association held in the Congregational church last Saturday was pronounced successful. Rev. Mr. Bussing, of Monroe, made a spirited address and Rev. Ishida of Japan, spoke earnestly on the difference between Japanese women and women in America. He expressed emphatically the thought that the United States was the best government under the sun, that where you find women 'up' there the government is up and the country is a good one to live in; where woman is down and the country is way down too."

The Woman's Suffrage Association (W.S.A.), founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Cleveland in 1869, worked for 50 years to secure for women the right to vote.

The W.S.A. quickly established state chapters throughout the nation, including a particularly active and progressive chapter in Wisconsin.

Among the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association's (W.W.S.A.'s) most important victories was the passage of an 1886 law giving Wisconsin women the right to vote in school elections.

One of the state's leading suffragists was Theodora Winton Youmans, who served as president of the W.W.S.A. from 1913-19. Under her leadership, the W.W.S.A.'s public relations campaign turned the minds of Wisconsin's male voters from a 2-1 opposition to women's suffrage to the point at which they passed ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919.

Two years later, in 1921, The Wisconsin Legislature passed an equal rights law comparable to the proposed equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was defeated in the 1970s.

The 1921 equal Rights legislation is still law in Wisconsin.