Guthrie County Women Voted for the First Time–1920

“Miss Grissell speaks at Christian church tomorrow at 2-30 – and tells the women how to vote.”

Laura Goff used a pencil to write a postcard to her daughter, Mrs. Clabe Wilson at Stuart, on October 19, 1920.

“think I will learn how its done.”

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That year, my great grandmother just may have been the first woman in my motherline to vote.

Just who was Miss Grissell? One of those aggressive suffragettes? She had been a Guthrie Center primary school teacher–in 1909 she was secretary of the State Teachers Association.

But by 1920 Blanche A. Grissell, Republican, had become Guthrie County Recorder.

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State of Iowa 1919-20 Official Register

At 2:30 that October 20, she gave her talk about voting to a meeting of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) at the Christian Church in Guthrie Center.

Election Day that year was November 2. It was the first election after the Great War (WWI), and the first after ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

Warren G. Harding won the presidency in a landslide victory.

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This is the only picture I have of Laura Goff from the early 1920s. She is in Stuart with her Wilson grandchildren, 1921.

I don’t know whether Laura Goff voted Democrat or Republican. Her oldest daughter was a staunch Democrat, but a granddaughter was a poll watcher for Republicans for decades.

We granddaughters and great granddaughters of Laura Jordan Goff honored her in 1995 with a commemorative brick in the Plaza of Heroines, a fund-raiser for ISU’s Botany Hall was renovation. It was renamed Carrie Chapman Catt Hall.

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Darlene and Doris, granddaughters of Laura Goff, at the Carrie Chapman Catt Hall dedication at ISU. October 10, 1995. The Plaza of Herones is at the bottom of the stairs.

Carrie Chapman Catt probably was considered an aggressive suffragette. Valedictorian and only female graduate of Iowa State’s Class of 1880, she became President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, founded the League of Women Voters, and worked for both the League of Nations and the United Nations.

According to an editorial in The Des Moines Register, the Plaza of Heroines is made up of  “2,500 bricks engraved with the names of women whose lives touched the world–and whose votes counted.”

Laura Jordan Goff

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Family also honored other women in our motherline:

Her oldest daughter, Leora Goff Wilson.

Leora’s daughters, Doris Wilson Neal, and Darlene Wilson Scar.

And Doris’s daughters, Joy Neal Kidney and Gloria Neal–a graduate of ISU.

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Carrie Lane Chapman–1890

From The Guthrian, Apr. 24, 1890. Stuart. Miss Carrie Lane Chapman lectured here two nights last week. Her audiences were very much pleased with her address.

She is the same Carrie Chapman Catt referred to above. Leora Goff was born a few months later, in December 1890.

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“In remembrance of heroines: The name of Carrie Chapman Catt occupies a place of honor.” The Des Moines Register, Oct. 7, 1995.

State of Iowa 1919-20 Official Register Twenty-Eighth Number, Compiled Under Supervision of W.C. Ramsay, Secretary of State.

18 comments

  1. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic of women’s suffrage for Wikipedia. This is a timely reminder. I hadn’t really thought about Harding’s election being the first presidential vote for women. He was such a corrupt politician, but movie-star handsome.

  2. 1920 was the year my grandfather Charles Kennedy won his first term as sheriff! I like to think my gramma voted for him her first time she was eligible!

    What a great article! Us ladies need to remember what our foremothers went through so we can vote today!!!

  3. I like your phrase “in our motherline” – an aspect of families too easily tossed aside, yet so important in the makeup of who we are!

    • I remember learning that our mitochondrial DNA is only passed through the motherline. It was in an article about trying to determine the fate of Romanov Czar Nicholas’s daughter the Grand Dutchess Anastasia. I also was fascinated by a book by Lowinsky called “Stories From the Motherline.”

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