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History Online

By Mark Sorensen

As March is Women's History Month let's explore web sites that feature the distaff side of Illinois History. After the 1870 Illinois Constitution failed to give females of any color or age the right to vote, many women put their energies into the suffragist movement. A "Brief History of Woman Suffrage in Illinois" can be found at This site leads readers to the League of Women Voters of Illinois http: //www.lwvl. org/ and to many sites concerning the national movement such as the "Suffrage Movement Timeline"

Several of the national suffrage sites link to the National Women's Hall of Fame with Illinois connections include: Frances Willard, Jane Addams, Myra Bradwell, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Hamilton, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Oprah Winfrey. The late Ms. Brooks has yet to be replaced as Illinois' Poet Laureate. You can find her biography, quotes and poems all linked to Jone Johnson Lewis' Women's History web site Few Illinoisans know that Willard is represented in Washington, D.C. as one of Illinois' two statues in the Capitol. Her likeness was the first honoring a woman to be chosen for the National Statuary Hall Collection. Nearby in the Capitol Rotunda is the Portrait Monument to three national suffrage leaders. The sculptor of this well-traveled eight-ton block of marble was Plymouth, Illinois' own Adelaide Johnson http://www. awomanaweek. com/ johnson.htm. She financed her advanced European art training in a settlement she received after surviving a fall down an elevator shaft in Chicago.

The Working Women's History Project promotes education about women and unions in Chicago. Among the many women who lived and contributed to the Hull House Settlement was Florence Kelley. Her campaign against the sweatshop system in the Chicago garment industry brought about labor reforms and helped her become Illinois' first Factory Inspector http:/ You can also find many women with Illinois connections at Did you know that Illinois born Ellen Gates Starr spent thirty years at Hull House but retired to a Catholic convent in New York, or that Chicago-born feminist painter Judith Cohen Gerowitz changed her name to "Judy Chicago"?

The Alliance Library System has put together the "Early Illinois Women & Other Unsung Heroes" website IllinoisWomen/ index.htm that includes a list of most of the wives of Illinois Governors as well as stories about other interesting women. Included is Jennie Hodgers, who "as a man" served in the 95 Illinois Civil War Infantry and retired to the State Soldiers' and Sailors' Home as "Mr. Albert D. J. Cashier." This site also offers a glimpse of what higher education was like for women in the 1800s. Starting with 1836, many of the catalogues of the Jacksonville Female Academy are online and reveal the names of students, description of classes and outline of school policies dealing with visitors to the school such as, "In no case do young ladies receive calls from gentlemen residing in the city, except their own brothers."

Our own Illinois State Historical Society "Historical Markers" site honors too few women but does include Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen the founder of the American Medical Women's Association and Carroll County nurse Helen Scott Hay.

Many educational institutions around the state offer web sites that list collections to assist serious researchers in finding information about women. The Chicago Historical Society has its Chicago History magazine index (1988-1996) online so one can find which volumes discuss notable women such as social and union activist Mary McDowell. The University of Illinois-Springfield manuscript collections let you identify what records are held for the Springfield Chapter of the "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom" the Billy Graham Center Archives holds records of the "Woman's Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands" and the University of Chicago Women's Studies Collections contain the papers of such luminaries as the Abbott sisters, Sophonsiba Breckinridge, Bessie Louise Pierce and Ida B. Wells.

Finally, the Illinois State Archives Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900, allows one to search millions of marriages by the bride's name in order to find that missing matriarch and her groom. It can also be used as a tool to find a trendy 19th Century name for your baby girl. A search of brides with the maiden name "Sorensen" revealed such first names as "Ulligard," "Othilda," "Ingeborg," and "Gonnel." On second thought, my daughters seem to be content with just "Jennifer" and "Erika."

Our next column will feature local historical society and museum websites. Please send me suggestions of locations to review.

Mark W. Sorensen is Assistant Director at the Illinois State Archives. He has maintained the "Illinois History Resource Page" since 1995 at


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