CANTON The 1980s isn’t that long ago, but Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton said she can remember being questioned about her haircut, and who was watching her children while she was out campaigning for office.
Wearing open-toed shoes to a campaign event, she recalled, was nothing short of shocking — as was being divorced.
Last week, Creighton was on hand to welcome a 12-panel traveling exhibit of Ohio women’s history on display in the Stark County Law Library in the Stark County Office Building.
Important to Showcase
As part of a year-long centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment and in conjunction with Women’s History Month, the exhibit is a partnership of the Ohio History Connection and the Canton League of Women Voters, Law Library Director Kendel Croston said.
Noting that Ohio has had an active role in the women’s rights movement, Creighton added, "It’s important that we showcase where women have been, what they have done and where they will go."
Though Creighton has made some history of her own as the first and only woman to serve as mayor of Canton and the first elected as county recorder, she credits local women from both parties for paving the way for people like her; among them, Judges Irene Smart and Sheila Farmer, and Helen Garafalo.
"And I think about a woman named Jeanette Smith ... I believe that in 1923 she was probably the first woman ever appointed to an office in Stark County. Even though I can say I was the first woman elected to the office of county recorder, she was appointed in 1923, just three years after women earned the right to vote."
Creighton also noted that as a young attorney, William McKinley was outspoken in his support of economic and political equality for women.
Ida McKinley corresponded with Susan B. Anthony and spoke at women’s rights events, Creighton said, but she was not a politically active first lady.
Other notable local women include Betsy Mix Cowells, a local educator who presided over the historic Salem Women’s Rights Convention of 1850, and Caroline McCullough Everhard, an educator, bank director, co-organizer of the Massillon Public Library, and president of the Ohio Suffrage Association for 10 years.
Everhard, Creighton, said, convinced her friend, then-Gov. William McKinley, to press the State Legislature to support women’s suffrage so they could serve on school boards.
"This was fought for"
"We have broken that glass ceiling, and it wasn’t because of one person," Creighton said. "It was because of our foremothers that we are where we are today."
The panel features photos, quotes, and brief biographies of dozens of Ohio women who have impacted the state as well as the nation.
"I think they’re very inspirational," said Connie Rubin, a member of the Canton Area League of Women Voters. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction below. noon March 9.)
Rubin also noted that this year also marks the local league’s centennial, which was chartered at City Hall.
League member Barbara Lewis said such exhibits are crucial in helping the public to understand how far the country has come, and ho much remains to be done.
"It’s critical we remember our history because our history defines our future," she said. "It’s really important that young people understand that this was fought for, and if it was fought for, we need to use it - the right the vote."
On the same day the exhibit was unveiled, Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she was dropping out of presidential contention, leaving no major woman candidate for the 2020 race.
"It’s easy to be pessimistic; after all, it’s been 100 years," Rubin said. "But I hope to see a woman in the next 20 years."
The exhibit will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
To learn about upcoming events, visit the Canton Area League of Women Voters Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Stark-Womens-Voting-Centennial-2886079491616685/
CORRECTION: Carol Canavan and Amy Shriver Dreussi are co-presidents of the Canton Area League of Women Voters. Connie Rubin is a member of the organization. Rubin’s title was incorrect when this story first published.