Do you know these women?
Hadassah Trask, Caroline Hawley, Clarissa Stewart, Almeda Langdon, Betsy Goff, Amy Naper, Sarah Hawley, Polly Taylor, Sibelia Riddler, or Elizabeth Christie?
These women accompanied their husbands to the settlements along the DuPage River now known as Naperville.
Though recorded in history books as Mrs. So-and-so or the wife of So-and-so, these women played an integral part of the history of our community.
Leaving the comforts of their East Coast family homes to brave the depravations of the northern Illinois prairies, these women provided for their families, protected their children, and, to borrow from English poet William Blake, built a “Heaven in Hell’s despair.” But alas, they were not part of the voting franchise.
Flash forward nearly 90 years to a different kind of pioneer. In 1920, after the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote, it took DuPage County native, Lottie Holman O’Neill, two years to get elected to the Illinois General Assembly.
In 1922, O’Neill started a 40-year career in the Illinois Assembly, 28 years in the Illinois House of Representatives and 12 years in the Illinois Senate. She was an outspoken sponsor of equal rights for women and state aid to children with disabilities.
O’Neill was the major sponsor for the bill which allowed women to serve on juries.
The Naperville SUN newspaper reported DuPage County’s first “mixed jury” of men and women in the August 24, 1939, edition. “Mixed jury” results were “news” in the SUN for about six months.
A once-member of the SUN editorial board, Mary Lou Cowlishaw served on the Naperville Board of Education from 1972-1983. She was later elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, 1983-2002.
Cowlishaw was an advocate of education and authored/sponsored legislation for its support. Her Chicago School Reform bill became a national model. Cowlishaw also sponsored the Education for Homeless Children Act.
Edward Hospital owes much to Representative Cowlishaw for her support of the hospital district reform legislation which allowed Edward Hospital to transition from a public to private status.
Both Illinois Representative Cowlishaw and Senator O’Neill have schools named in their honor.
UPDATED for online post with Editor’s Note / This month the 2018 Illinois Primary Election Day is Tues., March 20, and by the end of the first day of spring selected candidates will begin campaigning for the Illinois General Election on Nov. 6, 2018. Plan to exercise your right to vote in both elections.
Visit PN’s 2018 Voters Guide where voters will find Naperville women are running in the Primary for a place on their party’s ballot to face Republican and Democratic hopefuls in November. They’re running to serve in Washington and Springfield as well as DuPage and Will Counties.
Be an informed voter. Cast your ballot in the Primary for the most qualified candidates in the party of your choice. Polls will be open from 6AM to 7PM March 20, 2018.