The following SELECTED CHRONOLOGY OF MICHIGAN WOMEN'S HISTORY is included in MICHIGAN
WOMEN: FIRSTS AND FOUNDERS, VOLUME II, by Rachel Brett Harley and Betty MacDowell, a
publication of the Michigan Women's Studies Association in 1995 in celebration of the 75th
Anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 26, 1920. MICHIGAN
WOMEN: FIRSTS AND FOUNDERS, VOLUME II recognizes the achievements of more than 500
Michigan women who have been the first women (or first persons) in their fields or who
have been the founders of movements, programs, organizations or institutions that have
benefitted our society. The book also features photographs of Suffrage activities in
Michigan, quotations from those involved in the Suffrage movement, and a Michigan Woman
Suffrage Honor Roll that lists by county more than 3,000 women and men who supported the
long struggle for women's right to vote. An Index organized by category is provided to
facilitate finding women in a particular field of work or area of interest.
from the sale of this book will benefit the continued development of the Michigan Women's
Historical Center and Hall of Fame at 213 W. Main Street in Lansing. The Center was
created by the Michigan Women's Studies Association to give visibility to the achievements
of Michigan women and to restore them to their rightful place in history.
We invite you to visit the Center and learn more about the roles that Michigan women
have played in the development of our state and nation.
A SELECTED CHRONOLOGY OF MICHIGAN WOMEN'S HISTORY
* Starred names indicate women who are listed in Michigan Women: Firsts and Founders,
1702 Marie-Therese Guyon Cadillac* and Anne Picote de Belestre de Tonti* join their
husbands at Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit), becoming the first two European women settlers
1804 The first permanent trading post in Michigan is founded near present-day Ada by
Madeline LaFramboise* and her husband Joseph.
1820 Susan Johnston (Ozhawguscodaywaquay, "Green Meadow Woman") is the first
Native American woman within the Michigan territory to facilitate a treaty between her
people and the U.S. government, the Treaty of Cession between the Ojibwa people and the
United States, providing land for the founding of Fort Brady at Sault Ste. Marie.
1832 Laura Smith Haviland* and Elizabeth Margaret Chandler* found the Logan Female
Anti-Slavery Society in Lenawee County, the first women's anti-slavery society in the
Michigan territory, leading to one of the first Michigan stations of the Underground
Railroad to Canada.
1837 Michigan becomes a state.
1846 Ernestine L. Rose, a reformer from New York, speaks to the Michigan Legislature
"on the right and need of women to the elective franchise" but has little
1848 The first Women's Rights Convention is held at Seneca Falls, New York. Catharine
Fish Stebbins (who moves to Detroit in 1867) serves as the Secretary.
1849 A Senate committee, led by Senator Rix Robinson of Ada, proposes a universal
suffrage amendment but it is not acted upon because of the "unusualness" and
"needlessness" of the franchise for women.
1851 Sojourner Truth of Battle Creek speaks before the Women's Rights Convention in
1852 The first women's club in Michigan, the Ladies Library Association of Kalamazoo,
is founded by Lucinda Hinsdale Stone*.
Livonia Benedict* is the first Michigan woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, at
1855 Suffragists from Lenawee County present petitions for woman suffrage, signed by
many state citizens, to the Michigan Legislature.
The first college for Michigan women, the Michigan Female College, is founded at
Lansing by Abigail Rogers*.
1857 The Michigan Legislature gives greater attention to woman suffrage petitions but
takes no action.
1859 A House committee considers the vote for black males but not for women, causing
resentment among women.
1861-1865 The Civil War
1861 The nation's first Ladies Aid Society, for the purpose of providing aid to Civil
War Soldiers at hospitals, camps, and battlefields, is organized in Detroit.
Jennie Hayes of Lansing is the first Michigan woman to enlist as a Civil War nurse in
the First Michigan Regiment of Volunteers.
Ellen G. White of Battle Creek co-founds the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists (the first organization of Seventh-day Adventist churches) at Battle Creek; in
1863 she co-founds the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, also at Battle Creek.
Sarah Emma Edmonds* of Flint, the first Michigan woman to be a Civil War soldier,
serves with the Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment as "Pvt. Franklin
1866 The state's first bill on woman suffrage is defeated by one vote.
1867 The Michigan Legislature grants women taxpayers the right to vote for school
trustees but rejects total woman suffrage.
1868 120 women vote unchallenged in the Sturgis school elections.
1869 The Fifteenth Amendment is passed by Congress, granting the vote to males
regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage
Lucy Stone leads the formation of the American Woman Suffrage Association.
1870 The Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association is formed at Battle Creek. The woman
suffrage amendment is passed by the Michigan Legislature but vetoed by the governor.
Madelon Louisa Stockwell* of Albion is the first woman admitted to the University of
Michigan, the first university to admit women. The University of Michigan medical school
also accepts its first women students. Stockwell graduates in 1872.
Mary E. Green of Charlotte is said to be the first woman physician in the country to be
admitted to any medical association, with her election to the New York Medical Society in
1871 Nannette B. Gardner* of Detroit and Mary Wilson* of Battle Creek vote in city and
Amanda Sanford* is the first woman to graduate from the University of Michigan medical
The Ladies Library Association of Kalamazoo builds the first clubhouse in the nation
for a woman's organization. In 1879 Hannah Trask Cornell becomes its first librarian.
Sarah Killgore Wertman is the first woman to graduate from the University of Michigan
Law School and the first woman to practice law in Michigan.
1872 Frances Armstrong Rutherford* of Grand Rapids, Ruth Geary* and Sibelia Baker* are
the first women physicians to be admitted to the Michigan State Medical Society.
The first public school kindergarten in Michigan is founded by Fannie M. Richards*, the
first African American teacher in Detroit's integrated school system, at the Everett
School in 1871.
1874 The State Legislature puts a woman suffrage amendment on the ballot, but it is
defeated, 135,957 to 40,077; the Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association disbands.
1875 The statewide Women's Christian Temperance Union is formed at Grand Rapids.
1878 Virginia Watts* of Ann Arbor is the first African American woman to enroll at the
University of Michigan; in 1885 she becomes the first African American woman to graduate
from the University.
1880 Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is the first woman in the nation to be a fully
ordained minister in the Methodist Protestant Church.
1881 School suffrage is extended to parents and guardians of children of school age.
Emma Hall* of Tecumseh is the first woman to be head of a state institution, as
Superintendent of the Reform School for Girls at Adrian, the first girls' reformatory in
the U.S. run by an all-woman staff and a board of directors consisting mainly of women.
1880s F. Elizabeth Palmer* of Albion is the first woman in Michigan elected to a board
of education, under the new law granting school suffrage to women.
1884 The Michigan Equal Suffrage Association is formed in Flint with Mary L. Doe* of
Bay City as the first president.
Michigan's Senator Thomas W. Palmer makes the first speech in the U.S. Senate in
support of woman's suffrage.
1889 The Michigan Supreme Court upholds the right of Eva Belles* of Flint to vote in
school board elections, after she was refused that right in 1888 (Belles vs Burr).
The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association
merge to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
1890 The Michigan Women's Press Association is founded at Traverse City, with Belle
McArthur Perry of Charlotte as its first president.
1893 The Michigan State Legislature passes municipal suffrage but the Michigan Supreme
Court declares it unconstitutional on the grounds that "the legislature has no right
to create a new class of voters".
1895 A proposed constitutional amendment to grant women suffrage is defeated in the
The Michigan State Federation of Women's Clubs is founded, with Clara A. Avery* of
Detroit as its first president.
1898 Ellen May Tower* of Byron is the first U.S. Army nurse to die on foreign soil, of
typhoid fever in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War, and is the first woman to
receive a military funeral in Michigan.
The Michigan Association of Colored Women's Clubs is founded by Mary E. McCoy* of
Detroit and Lucinda S. Thurman* of Jackson, with Thurman as president and McCoy as vice
1899 The National American Woman Suffrage Association holds its annual convention in
April at the St. Cecilia Society hall in Grand Rapids, the only time the convention is
held in Michigan.
1900 Alice Chaney* of Detroit is the first woman to be licensed as a ship's captain on
the Great Lakes.
1902 Agnes Nestor of Grand Rapids co-founds the International Glove Workers Union.
1904 Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is elected president of the National American
Woman Suffrage Association.
The Michigan Nurses Association is founded, with Lystra Gretter* of Detroit as its
1907-8 At the State Constitutional Convention woman's suffrage is defeated 57 to 38,
but women who pay taxes can vote on local bonding and tax issues.
1908 The first women's curling club in the country, the Grand Rapids Women's Curling
Club, is formed.
1911 Harriet Quimby* of Branch County is the first woman in the nation (second in the
world) to receive a pilot's license.
Annie Smith Peck, at age 61, is the first person to reach the peak of Peru's 21,150 ft.
Mt. Coropuna, where she drives in a pennant declaring "Votes for women".
1912 Governor Charles S. Osborn successfully urges the Michigan State Legislature to
put the suffrage question before the all-male electorate in November. Clara B. Arthur* of
Detroit leads the campaign and the proposal appears to win. However, the opposition steals
the election under suspicious circumstances.
Beginning in 1912, the Michigan State Grange, led by Jennie Buell of Ann Arbor and Ida
Chittenden of Lansing, is the only state Grange to campaign actively for woman suffrage.
The Detroit Business Woman's Club, the first professional woman's club in the nation,
is founded, with Emily Helen Butterfield*, the first woman in Michigan to be a registered
architect, as its first president.
1913 The Michigan Association Opposed to Equal Suffrage is formed. The suffrage
proposal is again put on the ballot and again defeated.
1915 The American Women's Medical Association is founded, with Bertha Van Hoosen* of
Rochester as its first president.
1916 Frances Elliott Davis* of Detroit is the first African American nurse officially
accepted into the American Red Cross.
1917 The United States joins the Allies in World War I.
1917 Ella H. Aldinger of Lansing, Betsy Graves Reyneau and Kathleen McGraw Hendrie of
Detroit, and Mrs. G. B. Jennison of Bay City join Alice Paul of the National Woman's Party
to picket the White House in support of woman suffrage. Reyneau is arrested and sentenced
to 60 days of hard labor in prison.
Governor Albert E. Sleeper signs a bill on May 8, granting Michigan women the right to
vote in presidential elections.
1918 Michigan male voters approve a state constitutional amendment granting suffrage to
The Michigan Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs is founded, with
Lena Lake Forrest* of Detroit as its first president.
1919 Michigan women vote for statewide offices for the first time.
The National Suffrage Amendment, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, is
passed by Congress on June 5. Michigan is the second state to ratify the amendment on June
The National American Woman Suffrage Association disbands and is replaced by the League
of Women Voters. The Michigan League of Women Voters is led by Florence Belle Brotherton*
The first all-woman jury in Michigan is seated in Detroit on March 19, with Mabel S.
Greenwood of Detroit as foreman.
Ella C. Eggleston of Hastings is the first woman to be appointed as a probate judge in
Phoebe Ely Patterson* of Plymouth is the first woman in Michigan to be a Justice of the
Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is the first woman in the nation to receive the
Distinguished Service Medal, for her work as Chair of the Women's Committee of the Council
of National Defense.
1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting the vote to women, becomes law on
August 26. Women vote for the first time in the presidential election on November 2.
1921 Eva McCall Hamilton* of Grand Rapids is the first woman to serve in the Michigan
Legislature with her election to the Michigan Senate.
1923 The Equal Rights Amendment is introduced in the U. S. Congress.
1925 Cora Reynolds Anderson* of L'Anse is the first woman elected to the Michigan House
1928 The Elliottorian Business Women's Club, the first African American business
women's club in Detroit and Michigan, is founded by Elizabeth Nelson Elliott* of Detroit.
1930 The Detroit Housewives League, the first such league in the nation, is formed to
encourage African American women to use their economic power to improve their own
community. Founder Fannie B. Peck* of Detroit later becomes the first president of the
National Housewives League formed in 1933.
Ella Bareis Prochnow of Ann Arbor is the first woman in Michigan to own and manage an
1930s Grace Eldering* and Pearl Kendrick* of Grand Rapids develop the first successful
vaccine for whooping cough. They later develop the single innoculation for diphtheria,
whooping cough and tetanus.
The County Extension Program, to train farm women as leaders of homemaker groups and
4-H clubs, is founded at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan State University) by Edna
1937 The Women's Emergency Brigade and UAW Women's Auxiliary, led by Genora Dollinger,
support the sit-down strike for union organizing at General Motors Corporation in Flint.
1941 Lila M. Neuenfelt of Dearborn is the first woman to be a circuit court judge in
Michigan, serving on the Wayne County Circuit Court.
1942 The United States enters World War II.
The Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (later called the Women's Airforce Service
Pilots or WASPS) is founded by Nancy Harkness Love* of Houghton, the first woman air ferry
pilot in the nation in 1940.
The nation's first chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America (mothers of military men
and women) is founded at Flint with Adda Harris as president.
1943 The All American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed while players on men's
baseball teams are in military service, includes the Grand Rapids Chicks, the Battle Creek
Belles, and the Muskegon Lassies; the League is active until the mid-1950s.
Charlotte Plummer Owen of Ann Arbor founds the U.S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve Band,
the official band of the women in the Marine Corps during World War II. She is the only
woman to guest-conduct the U. S. Marine Band, in 1945 and again in 1993.
1944 U.S. Army Nurse Aleda E. Lutz* of Freeland is the first U.S. military woman to die
in a combat zone during World War II when her hospital plane goes down on her 196th rescue
1946 Dorothy Waite Pearl of Eastport founds Girls' Nation and Girls' State, to help
high school girls throughout the country learn how their state and federal governments
1948 Waunetta McClellan Dominic of Petoskey co-founds the Northern Michigan Ottawa
Association, to secure treaty- based rights for the non-reservation Ottawa and Chippewa
people of Michigan.
1950 Ruth Thompson* of Muskegon is the first Michigan woman elected to Congress, in the
House of Representatives where she is the first woman member of the House Judiciary
Charline Rainey White* of Detroit is the first African American woman elected to the
Michigan House of Representatives.
1952 Cora Mae Brown* of Detroit is the first African American woman elected to the
1953 Irene M. Auberlin of Detroit founds World Medical Relief, an organization that has
provided medical supplies throughout the world for more than 40 years.
1961 Clara Raven* of Detroit is the first woman physician to be a full colonel in the
U. S. Army Medical Corps.
1965 Elly Peterson* of Charlotte is the first woman to be state chair of a major
political party in Michigan, as chair of the Republican Party.
Viola Liuzzo of Detroit is the first white woman to be murdered as a civil rights
worker, while working for the movement in Alabama.
1967 Ann Holtgren Pellegreno* of Saline is the first aviator in the U.S. to recreate
the world flight of Amelia Earhart, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Earhart's
disappearance in 1937.
Noreen Hillary of Grand Rapids and Kay Whitfield of Flint are the first women to become
Michigan State Police Troopers.
1968 The Michigan Women's Commission is established by the Michigan State Legislature.
1969 Michigan's first chapter of the National Organization for Women is convened by
Patricia Hill Burnett* of Detroit.
1970 Cornelia Kennedy* of Detroit is the first woman to be a federal judge, with her
appointment to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.
1971 The Women's Crisis Center is founded in Ann Arbor, one of the first two rape
crisis centers in the nation.
1972 Mary Stallings Coleman* of Battle Creek is the first woman elected to the Michigan
1973 The Michigan Women's Studies Association, the first women's studies association in
the nation, is founded at Michigan State University
The Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced in Congress by Rep. Martha Griffiths* of
Michigan, fifty years after it was first introduced.
The first Title IX complaint against a university, charging gross discrimination
against women in athletics, is filed by Marcia J. Federbush* of Ann Arbor.
Carolyn King* of Ypsilanti, at age 12, is the first girl in the country to play in
Little League Baseball.
1974 The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) is founded, with Olga Madar* of Detroit
as its first president.
The Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act, which labels rape as a violent crime while
insuring the victim's privacy, is passed after being drafted by Virginia Nordby* of Ann
Belita Cowan of Ann Arbor founds the National Women's Health Network, the only national
consumer organization devoted to women's health.
1975 ERAmerica, with Elly Peterson* of Charlotte and Liz Carpenter as the first
national co-chairs, is founded in Washington, D.C., to win support for the Equal Rights
The National Organization for Women's Wife Abuse Task Force in Washtenaw County
establishes Michigan's first network of private homes to shelter survivors of domestic
1976 ERAmerica is founded in Michigan by Helen W. Milliken* of Traverse City.
1978 Margaret Brewer* of Durand is the first woman to be a General in the U.S. Marine
1979 Mary Stallings Coleman* of Battle Creek is the first woman to be Chief Justice of
the Michigan Supreme Court.
1980 Marjorie Swank Matthews* of Onaway is the first woman elected as a Bishop in the
United Methodist Church.
1982 Martha W. Griffiths* of Romeo is the first woman elected to the office of
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan.
Martha M. Mertz of Okemos founds the ATHENA Award Program to honor outstanding business
and professional women for their achievements, community service and assistance to other
women in gaining leadership skills; the program becomes national in 1985 and international
1983 The annual Celebration of Michigan Women, at which historic and contemporary women
are inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, is founded by the Michigan Women's
1984 Judith Craig* of Royal Oak is the first woman to serve in Michigan as a Bishop of
the United Methodist Church.
1986 Catherine Comet is the first woman in the country to be the official conductor of
a professional orchestra, as conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.
1987 The Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame, the first historical
center in the nation to focus on the achievements of the women of a single state, is
opened at Lansing by the Michigan Women's Studies Association, with Gladys May Beckwith*
as its first director.
Teola Hunter* of Detroit is the first woman elected as Speaker Pro Tem of the Michigan
House of Representatives.
1988 Yolanda Alvarado-Ortega of East Lansing founds the Hispanic Women in the Network
1990 Susan Hershberg Adelman of Southfield is the first woman to be president of the
Michigan State Medical Society in its 124-year history.
1991 Melissa Rathbun-Nealy of Newaygo is the first U.S. Army woman to be a prisoner of
war in the Persian Gulf War.
1992 Merrily Dean Baker* of Okemos is the first woman to be the Athletic Director at a
Big Ten University, at Michigan State University.
A record number of women is elected to the U.S. Congress and the Michigan State
Legislature, making a total of 47 women in the U.S. House of Representatives, six women in
the U.S. Senate, 25 women in the Michigan House of Representatives and three women in the
1993 Alta DeRoo of Paw Paw is one of the first two women chosen for combat training as
a U.S. Navy pilot.
Julie Krone of Eau Claire is the first woman jockey to win a triple crown event in the
Belmont Stakes and the first woman to win five races in one day at Saratoga.
Collette Webster of Sunfield is the first American to die in the Bosnian War.
1994 Margaret Dhaene of Lansing is in the first group of women in the U.S. Navy
assigned to a combatant ship.
Candice S. Miller of Macomb County is the first woman elected as Michigan Secretary of
The first on-campus domestic violence shelter in the country is founded at Michigan
State University by Joanne McPherson of East Lansing.
1995 The first publicly-funded domestic violence shelter in the country is founded in
Ann Arbor, with Susan McGee as its executive director.
Suellen Finatri of Roscommon is the first woman to ride horseback from St. Ignace to
Anchorage, Alaska, starting out on February 1 and reaching Anchorage by December.
The 75th Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, ratified on August 26, 1920, is
celebrated throughout the year and those involved in the long struggle to win the vote for
women are honored for their courage and commitment to the cause of equal suffrage.
MICHIGAN WOMEN: FIRSTS AND FOUNDERS, VOLUME II is available from the Michigan Women's
Studies Association, 213 W. Main Street, Lansing, MI 48933. Tel: (517) 484-1880. Please
contact us for ordering information.