Friday, April 12, 2013

Another Lake County Vignette - Belle Sherwin, Forgotten Suffragist Leader

Mention 19th c. suffragist leaders and the names Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, and Frances Jennings Casement come immediately to mind.  A fourth member of that group Belle Sherwin is often overlooked and undermentioned in the chapters of NE Ohio and Lake County history.  Today's vignette examines her contributions and place in Women's History.

Belle Sherwin was Cleveland born in 1869, the daughter of Henry A Sherwin, founder of the Sherwin Williams Company.  Her academic pedigree far outpaced the standards of the era.  A college graduate ( Wellesley,1890), she attended Oxford University ('94-95) and was granted additional degrees from Western Reserve University ('30), Denison University ('31), and Oberlin College ('37).  Never married, her inherited wealth allowed her to pursue a career of giving and philanthropic projects.  Her early years were spent as an educator at various institutions of learning.

Returning to Cleveland in 1900, her passions and causes to women's rights were unparalleled.  She was a key member in the Visiting Nurses Association, Cleveland Consumers League, and Cleveland Welfare Federation.  As a result of a visit by Maud Wood Park to Lake County in 1910, her effort's with the League of Women's Voters is most impressive. From 1921-24, she joined other famous local suffragists in the movement.  Sherwin assumed the group's presidency in '24 and held it for more than a decade.  Belle even found time to add the National Urban League to her resume.

As one recalls the period of history leading up to and immediately after the passage of the 19th Amendment, the names Anthony, Stanton, Casement, Kaukonen, and Sherwin must be synonymous in the history of our county.

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