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Evanston and the Fight for the Vote

1892 School Board Election in Evanston

In 1891, the Illinois state legislature passed a school suffrage bill, which allowed women to vote in school board elections. Since women were already involved in schools as both teachers and administrators, and since overseeing their children's’ education was already part of women’s roles, as mothers, many nineteenth-century people thought school suffrage made more sense for women than other types of voting rights. It was a natural step into democratic participation. Evanston's women organizing was essential to further their children's educational opportunities.

The year after the Illinois state legislature passed the bill, women of Evanston got a chance to exercise their voting rights. In 1892, Evanston held a school board election, and hundreds of local women voted, which resulted in Louise Brockaway Stanwood becoming the first woman elected to the board. Women worked together to prepare to participate in this election--they spread the news that women can vote, and they went in groups to their polling places in case individuals were nervous about casting their first vote.

The school board election had a preliminary vote, where 105 women participated, and the actual vote, where more women cast ballots. One ticket included two men and Louise Brockaway Stanwood, and an opposition ticket included three women: Gertrude Singleton, W.E. Clifford, and Isabella A. H. Prindle. Many Evanston suffragists thought it would be too difficult or not a good strategic decision to vote for the second ballot and fill all three vacancies, including that of the president, with women. In this second stage of the election, 484 women voted, and the ticket with Louise Brockaway Stanwood won by a wide margin. Stanwood served on the school board for several years and participated in the Committee on Rules, Text Books, and Courses of Study, as well as the Committee on Teachers.

Louise Brockaway Stanwood

Louise Brockaway Stanwood (1858-1935) graduated from Vassar College in 1880. Stanwood came to Evanston in 1883 and became involved in a number of community groups.

Her most notable position was as a school board member: Stanwood was the first woman elected to serve on the school board in Evanston. Stanwood took office in 1892 when Evanston women first voted in an election. She served on the board from 1892 to 1907 and worked on both the Committee on Rules, Text Books, and Courses of Study, as well as the Committee on Teachers.

Stanwood was also a Sunday School teacher at the First Congregational Church, a charter member and the second president of the Evanston Women’s Club, the founder of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, president of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, and an organizer of the Illinois Congress of Mothers, a predecessor of today’s Parent Teacher Organizations.

School Board Election