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.
Proceeds 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
A SELECTED CHRONOLOGY OF MICHIGAN WOMEN'S HISTORY
* Starred names indicate women who are listed in Michigan Women: Firsts
and Founders, Volume I.
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 in Michigan.
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 influence.
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
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
1851 Sojourner Truth of Battle Creek speaks before the Women's Rights
Convention in Akron, Ohio.
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 Hillsdale College.
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 Thompson".
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
Lucy Stone leads the formation of the American Woman Suffrage
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 ca. 1870.
1871 Nannette B. Gardner* of Detroit and Mary Wilson* of Battle Creek
vote in city and state elections.
Amanda Sanford* is the first woman to graduate from the University of
Michigan medical school.
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
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
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
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
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
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 House.
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 president.
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
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 first president.
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
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
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
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 Michigan women.
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 10.
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* of Detroit.
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 Michigan.
Phoebe Ely Patterson* of Plymouth is the first woman in Michigan to be a
Justice of the Peace.
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 of Representatives.
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
Ella Bareis Prochnow of Ann Arbor is the first woman in Michigan to own
and manage an automobile dealership.
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 V. Smith*.
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
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 mission.
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 function.
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 Committee.
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 Michigan Senate.
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
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 Supreme Court.
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 Arbor.
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 Amendment.
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 violence.
1976 ERAmerica is founded in Michigan by Helen W. Milliken* of Traverse
1978 Margaret Brewer* of Durand is the first woman to be a General in
the U.S. Marine Corps.
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 in 1994.
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 Studies Association.
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 of Michigan.
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 Michigan Senate.
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
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 State.
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