Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Women of Chariton, unite!

The Chariton Improvement Association had been formed during 1893 by women frustrated by male inattention to details like parks, piles of trash, unpaved streets, no sidewalks and the absence of a city water supply and sewer system. Unable to vote, the women took it upon themselves to campaign (and raise funds) to improve all of the above situations --- with considerable success.

The women had, however, been careful to remain above the political fray.

Jessie Mallory Thayer (left), who turned 30 in 1893, had been involved since the beginning and during early 1901, now approaching 40 and association president, and as city elections neared, rallied the troops to start using their influence to make sure that the names on the ballot were men worthy of being there (no women allowed on the ballot, or in the voting booths, of course).

Jessie was the only child of Chariton's original power couple, Smith and Annie Mallory, and a financially independent widow in her own right, having buried Deming J. Thayer in the Chariton Cemetery some three years earlier. Here's her new year's message to the membership, as published in The Chariton Patriot of Feb. 2, 1901:


To the members of the Chariton Improvement Association:

It is the duty of all good citizens of Chariton, both men and women, to realize that the time is rapidly approaching for the election of the men who are to govern and control the administration of everything pertaining to the welfare of our city for the coming year.

The policy of our so-called best citizens has been, with always a few exceptions, to fold their arms and declare nothing would induce them to either hold office in our town government, or take an active part in the elections, as their own private business was all they could or would attend to.

Our merchants hesitate to come out boldly and fight existing evils, for fear of damaging their trade; our ministers keep silence in the pulpits for fear of giving offense to someone.

The Improvement Association has never dared to even favor a candidate for any city office, because we have absolutely no power except what is given us by the mayor and council, and we are in the humiliating position of always being obliged to be on the right side of the fence.

The women of the town, who ought to have the power to vote for the men who will give them a clean, healthy, decent, temperate, orderly, safe town in which to live and raise their sons and daughters to worthy manhood and womanhood, have never thought it worthwhile to interest themselves in city elections, because they are nonentities politically. Cui bonu?

Now the question which I wish to put to every member of the Improvement Society, which is too large a body to be reached except through the press, is --- has not the time come when we ought to come out from the self-interests under whose shadows we have rested peacefully for years, and show that we wish our little city placed in the hands of men who will enforce the good laws, repeal the vicious ones and make Chariton what it should be?

1 comment:

Tom Atha said...

Great story!!!