Upton set a wonderful example
March is Women’s History Month. One woman I’ve been reading about lately is Harriet Taylor Upton, who played a vital role in the fight for women’s suffrage. I recently read a quote attributed to Ben Franklin: ”Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” When I read that, my first response was, ”I want to do both!” Harriet Taylor Upton actually did do both.
Ms. Upton was born in 1854 in Ravenna, but her family moved to Warren when she was 7 years old. Her father, Ezra Taylor, was a judge. He was elected to Congress in 1880, and since he was a widower by then, Harriet accompanied him to Washington to act as his hostess and companion. While she was there, she met her husband, George Upton, whom she married in 1884.
Harriet also met Susan B. Anthony, who would be very influential in her life. Although initially against women’s suffrage, Harriet eventually became immersed in the movement after researching and writing an article on the subject. In 1890, she joined the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association. She later served as the treasurer of that organization and president of the Ohio Woman’s Suffrage Association. She was instrumental in the eventual ratification of the 19th Amendment.
In addition to her work for women’s suffrage, Harriet was active in the passage of the first child labor law. She was also the first woman elected to the Warren Board of Education, the founder of the Warren chapter of the DAR, the founder and first president of the Warren American Red Cross Chapter, and a founding member of the National League of Women Voters. She was the first woman vice chair of the National Republican Executive Committee and ran twice for Congress. Somewhere in there, Harriet found time to author books for children as well as several histories.
Wow! This was a truly remarkable woman. I think, though, that it is not just her many accomplishments that amaze me, but the fact that she did not allow herself to be comfortable. Many in her circumstances could have been satisfied with their nice, safe, comfortable lives. She chose not to be that way. Her life would have been so much easier had she not chosen to take on the cause of suffrage as well as the other causes she embraced. She worked hard to accomplish these things even though she could have had a life of leisure.
I’m also impressed by Harriet’s perseverance for her cause. It was almost 30 years from the time she became involved in the suffrage movement until the 19th Amendment was ratified. I see people all around me who are pessimistic and want to give up on our community. They say this is the way it is here and always will be. We need to realize that although it may take time to make our community what it should be, it can be done. We need to persevere to make the changes we seek and overcome the obstacles in our way rather than letting them discourage us. Too many times we say it is too hard and can never be done. Instead of saying that, we need to, as a good friend of mine is fond of saying, ”keep plugging away.” If we do nothing, nothing will ever change.
Harriet’s life is also a lesson in what a difference one person can make. She made life better for millions of women in this country by her dedication to the suffrage movement. She improved her own community by founding organizations that still make a difference today.
What if we had a Harriet around today for Trumbull County or, better yet, a small army of men and women who could have the vision that Harriet had for a better community and the work ethic and perseverance to make it happen? Can you imagine how much better our community would be? I can, and I think Harriet could, too.
Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.