Links to the Local:  Building a National Women's Elective History

Links to the Local:  Building a National Women's Elective History

Date and Time

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM


Kirkhof Center » RM 2270



Presented by Julia Bouwkamp & Jo Ellyn Clarey
This event is co-sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council and GVSU's Office of Integrated Learning and Advising Community Reading Project.

In 1999, when local historians first turned their attention to women's elective history, it was generally believed that women in Grand Rapids had not run for public office prior to the 1960s. This could not have been further from the truth. In fact, a thorough examination of the historical record reveals that beginning as early as 1887 over 50 Grand Rapids women ran in twice as many races over the thirty years before 1920.

How this information was gathered is a story in itself, but one that pales next to the surprising accounts about which local women put themselves on which public stages before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment allowed them to run in any election they liked. Now, this unique historical accounting, so important to our local history, will take on national significance as entries are shared with Her Hat Was in the Ring, a national crowdsourcing project dedicated to identifying all U.S. women running for office before 1920.

Highlighted in this program will be Alde Louise Tuck Blake, grandmother of the late Paul Kutsche whose generous gift established the Kutsche Office. Blake made national news in 1899 when she became one of three women serving on the Grand Rapids School Board. In 1920, the very first time women were able to run for such an office, she mounted a race for the Michigan legislature.

With their colleagues on the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council, Julia Bouwkamp and Jo Ellyn Clarey are dedicated to uncovering and preserving the largely forgotten but dynamic history of local women, making clear how their early investments in community building are profoundly linked to nation building. The Council is currently double- and triple-sourcing its women’s elective history into the present. So far as it knows, no other city in the United States has a comprehensive account.


Kutsche Office of Local History


View More Events

Page last modified December 13, 2017