Timeline of Michigan Women's History
1702 Marie-Therese Guyon
Cadillac* and Anne Picote de Belestre de Tonti* join their husbands at
Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit), becoming the first two European women
settlers in Michigan.
1804 The first
permanent trading post in Michigan is founded near present-day Ada by
and her husband Joseph.
1820 Susan Johnston (Ozhawguscodaywaquay,
"Green Meadow Woman") is the first Native American woman within the Michigan
territory to facilitate a treaty between her people (the
Ojibwa) and the U.S. government; the Treaty
of Cession provides land for the founding of
Fort Brady at Sault Ste. Marie.
1832 Laura Smith Haviland* and Elizabeth
Margaret Chandler* found the Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society in Lenawee
County, the first women's anti-slavery society in the Michigan territory,
leading to one of the first Michigan stations of the Underground Railroad to
1837 Michigan becomes a state.
1846 Ernestine Rose, a reformer from New
York, speaks before the Michigan Legislature "on the science of
government." The lecture is well received and the House passes a second
resolution granting Mrs. Rose the use of the House of Representatives the
following evening for a second lecture on "the antagonistical principles of
society." Both lectures were likely on women's rights and the lack of
protection afforded to women under the law.
1848 The first Women's Rights Convention is
held at Seneca Falls, New York. Catharine Ann Fish Stebbins (who moves to
Detroit in 1867) participates in the discussion of the Declaration of
Sentiments issued from the Convention and signs it..
1849 A Senate committee, led by Senator Rix
Robinson of Ada, proposes a universal suffrage amendment,
but it is not acted upon because of the "unusualness" and "needlessness" of
the franchise for women.
1851 Sojourner Truth of Battle Creek speaks
before the Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
The first women's club in Michigan, the
Flint Ladies Library Association, is
1852 Livonia Benedict* is the first Michigan woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts
degree, at Hillsdale College.
1855 Suffragists from Lenawee County present
petitions for woman suffrage, signed by many state citizens, to the Michigan
The first college for Michigan women, the Michigan Female College, is
founded at Lansing by Abigail Rogers*.
1857 The Michigan Legislature gives greater
attention to woman suffrage petitions, but takes
1859 A House committee considers the vote
for black males but not for women, causing resentment among women.
1861-1865 The Civil War
is fought in America.
1861 The nation's first Ladies Aid Society,
for the purpose of providing aid to Civil War soldiers
at hospitals, camps, and battlefields, is organized in Detroit.
Jennie Hayes of Lansing is the first Michigan woman to enlist as a Civil
War nurse in the First Michigan Regiment of Volunteers.
Ellen White of Battle Creek co-founds the Michigan Conference of
Seventh-day Adventists (the first organization of Seventh-day Adventist
churches) at Battle Creek; in 1863, she co-founds
the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, also at Battle Creek.
Sarah Emma Edmonds* of Flint, the first Michigan woman to be a Civil War
soldier, serves with the Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment as
"Pvt. Franklin Thompson."
1866 The state's first bill on woman
suffrage is defeated by one vote.
1867 The Michigan Legislature grants women
taxpayers the right to vote for school trustees,
but rejects total woman suffrage.
1868 120 women vote unchallenged in the
Sturgis, Michigan school elections.
1869 The Fifteenth Amendment is passed by
Congress, granting the vote to males regardless of race, color, or previous
condition of servitude.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman
Lucy Stone leads the formation of the American Woman Suffrage
1870 The Michigan State Woman Suffrage
Association is formed at Battle Creek. The woman suffrage amendment is
passed by the Michigan Legislature, but vetoed by
Madelon Louisa Stockwell* of Albion is the first woman admitted to the
University of Michigan, the first state university
to admit women. The University of Michigan medical school also accepts its
first women students. Stockwell graduates in 1872.
Mary Green of Charlotte is said to be the first woman physician in the
country to be admitted to any medical association, with her election to the
New York Medical Society in ca. 1870.
1871 Nannett Gardner* of Detroit and
Mary Wilson* of Battle Creek vote in city and state elections.
Amanda Sanford* is the first woman to graduate from the University of
Michigan medical school.
The Ladies Library Association of Kalamazoo builds the first clubhouse in
the nation for a woman's organization. In 1879,
Hannah Trask Cornell becomes its first librarian.
Sarah Killgore Wertman is the first woman to graduate from the University
of Michigan Law School and the first woman to practice law in Michigan.
1872 Frances Armstrong Rutherford* of Grand
Rapids, Ruth Geary*, and Sibelia Baker* are the
first women physicians to be admitted to the Michigan State Medical Society.
The first public school kindergarten in Michigan is founded by Fannie Richards*, the first African-American teacher in
Detroit's integrated school system, at the Everett School in 1871.
1874 The State Legislature puts a woman
suffrage amendment on the ballot, but it is defeated, 135,957 to 40,077; the
Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association disbands.
1875 The statewide Women's Christian
Temperance Union is formed at Grand Rapids.
1878 Virginia Watts* of Ann Arbor is the
first African-American woman to enroll at the
University of Michigan; in 1885, she becomes the
first African-American woman to graduate from the
1880 Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is the
first woman in the nation to become a fully
ordained minister in the Methodist Church.
1881 School suffrage is extended to parents
and guardians of children of school age.
Emma Hall* of Tecumseh is the first woman to be head of a state
institution, as superintendent of the Reform
School for Girls at Adrian, the first girls' reformatory in the U.S. run by
an all-woman staff and a board of directors consisting mainly of women.
1880s F. Elizabeth Palmer* of Albion is the
first woman in Michigan elected to a board of education, under the new law
granting school suffrage to women.
1884 The Michigan Equal Suffrage Association
is formed in Flint with Mary Doe* of Bay City as the first president.
Michigan's Senator Thomas W. Palmer makes the first speech in the U.S.
Senate in support of woman's suffrage.
1889 The Michigan Supreme Court upholds the
right of Eva Belles* of Flint to vote in school board elections, after she
was refused that right in 1888 (Belles vs. Burr).
The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage
Association merge to become the National American Woman Suffrage
1890 The Michigan Women's Press Association
is founded at Traverse City, with Belle McArthur Perry of Charlotte as its
1893 The Michigan State Legislature passes
municipal suffrage, but the Michigan Supreme Court
declares it unconstitutional on the grounds that "the legislature has no
right to create a new class of voters."
1895 A proposed constitutional amendment to
grant women suffrage is defeated in the House.
The Michigan State Federation of Women's Clubs is founded, with Clara Avery* of Detroit as its first president.
1898 Ellen May Tower* of Byron is the first
U.S. Army nurse to die on foreign soil, of typhoid fever in Puerto Rico
during the Spanish-American War, and is the first woman to receive a
military funeral in Michigan.
The Michigan Association of Colored Women's Clubs is founded by Mary McCoy* of Detroit and Lucinda Thurman* of Jackson, with Thurman as
president and McCoy as vice president.
1899 The National American Woman Suffrage
Association holds its annual convention in April at the St. Cecilia Society
hall in Grand Rapids, the only time the convention is held in Michigan.
1900 Alice Chaney* of Detroit is the first
woman to be licensed as a ship's captain on the Great Lakes.
1902 Agnes Nestor of Grand Rapids co-founds
the International Glove Workers Union.
Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, one of the oldest
self-sustaining women's art organizations in the country, is organized.
1904 Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is
elected president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
The Michigan Nurses Association is founded, with Lystra Gretter* of
Detroit as its first president.
1907-8 At the State Constitutional
Convention, woman's suffrage is defeated 57 to 38,
but women who pay taxes can vote on local bonding and tax issues.
1908 The first women's curling club in the
country, the Grand Rapids Women's Curling Club, is formed.
1911 Harriet Quimby* of Branch County is the
first woman in the nation (second in the world) to receive a pilot's
Annie Smith Peck, at age 61, is the first person to reach the peak of
Peru's 21,150 ft. Mt. Coropuna, where she drives in a pennant declaring
"Votes for Women."
1912 Governor Charles Osborn successfully
urges the Michigan State Legislature to put the suffrage question before the
all-male electorate in November. Clara Arthur* of Detroit leads the
campaign and the proposal appears to win. However, the opposition steals the
election under suspicious circumstances.
Beginning in 1912, the Michigan State Grange, led by Jennie Buell of Ann
Arbor and Ida Chittenden of Lansing, is the only state Grange to campaign
actively for woman suffrage.
The Detroit Business Woman's Club, the first professional woman's club in
the nation, is founded, with Emily Helen Butterfield*, the first woman in
Michigan to be a registered architect, as its first president.
1913 The Michigan Association Opposed to
Equal Suffrage is formed. The suffrage proposal is again put on the ballot
and again defeated.
1915 The American Women's Medical
Association is founded, with Bertha Van Hoosen* of Rochester as its first
1916 Frances Elliott Davis* of Detroit is
the first African-American nurse officially
accepted into the American Red Cross.
1917 The United States joins the Allies in
World War I.
Ella H. Aldinger of Lansing, Betsy Graves Reyneau and Kathleen McGraw
Hendrie of Detroit, and Mrs. G.B. Jennison of Bay City join Alice Paul of
the National Woman's Party to picket the White House in support of woman
suffrage. Reyneau is arrested and sentenced to 60 days of hard labor in
Governor Albert Sleeper signs a bill on May 8, granting Michigan women
the right to vote in presidential elections.
1918 Michigan male voters approve a state
constitutional amendment granting suffrage to Michigan women.
The Michigan Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs is
founded, with Lena Lake Forrest* of Detroit as its first president.
1919 Michigan women vote for statewide
offices for the first time.
The National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is passed by Congress on June 5.
Michigan is the second state to ratify the amendment on June 10.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association disbands and is replaced
by the League of Women Voters. The Michigan League of Women Voters is led by
Florence Belle Brotherton* of Detroit.
The first all-woman jury in Michigan is seated in Detroit on March 19,
with Mabel Greenwood of Detroit as foreman.
Ella Eggleston of Hastings is the first woman to be appointed as a
probate judge in Michigan.
Phoebe Ely Patterson* of Plymouth is the first woman in Michigan to be a
justice of the peace.
Anna Howard Shaw* of Big Rapids is the first woman in the nation to
receive the Distinguished Service Medal, for her work as
chair of the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense.
1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution,
granting the vote to women, becomes law on August 26. Women vote for the
first time in the presidential election on November 2.
1921 Eva McCall Hamilton* of Grand Rapids is
the first woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature with her election to
the Michigan Senate.
1923 The Equal Rights Amendment is
introduced in the U.S. Congress.
1925 Cora Reynolds Anderson* of L'Anse is
the first woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.
1928 The Elliottorian Business Women's Club,
the first African-American business women's club
in Detroit and Michigan, is founded by Elizabeth Nelson Elliott* of Detroit.
1930 The Detroit Housewives League, the
first such league in the nation, is formed to encourage African-American
women to use their economic power to improve their own community. Founder
Fannie Peck* of Detroit later becomes the first president of the National
Housewives League formed in 1933.
Ella Bareis Prochnow of Ann Arbor is the first woman in Michigan to own
and manage an automobile dealership.
1930s Grace Eldering* and Pearl Kendrick* of
Grand Rapids develop the first successful vaccine for whooping cough. They
later develop the single inoculation for diphtheria, whooping cough,
The County Extension Program, to train farm women as leaders of homemaker
groups and 4-H clubs, is founded at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan
State University) by Edna V. Smith*.
1937 The Women's Emergency Brigade and UAW
Women's Auxiliary, led by Genora Dollinger, support the sit-down strike for
union organizing at General Motors Corporation in Flint.
1941 Lila Neuenfelt of Dearborn is the
first woman to be a circuit court judge in Michigan, serving on the Wayne
County Circuit Court.
The United States enters World War II.
1942 The Women's
Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (later called the Women's Airforce Service
Pilots or WASPS) is founded by Nancy Harkness Love* of Houghton, the first
woman air ferry pilot in the nation in 1940.
The nation's first chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America (mothers
of military men and women) is founded at Flint with Adda Harris as
1943 The All American Girls Professional
Baseball League, formed while players on men's baseball teams are in
military service, includes the Grand Rapids Chicks, the Battle Creek Belles,
and the Muskegon Lassies; the League is active until the mid-1950s.
Charlotte Plummer Owen of Ann Arbor founds the U.S. Marine Corps Women's
Reserve Band, the official band of the women in the Marine Corps during
World War II. She is the only woman to guest-conduct the U. S. Marine Band,
in 1945 and again in 1993.
1944 U.S. Army Nurse Aleda Lutz* of
Freeland is the first U.S. military woman to die in a combat zone during
World War II when her hospital plane goes down on her 196th rescue mission.
1946 Dorothy Waite Pearl of Eastport founds
Girls' Nation and Girls' State, to help high school girls throughout the
country learn how their state and federal governments function.
1948 Waunetta McClellan Dominic of Petoskey
co-founds the Northern Michigan Ottawa Association, to secure treaty- based
rights for the non-reservation Ottawa and Chippewa people of Michigan.
1950 Ruth Thompson* of Muskegon is the first
Michigan woman elected to Congress, in the House of Representatives where
she is the first woman member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Charline Rainey White* of Detroit is the first African-American
woman elected to the Michigan House of Representatives.
1952 Cora Mae Brown* of Detroit is the first
African-American woman elected to the Michigan
1953 Irene Auberlin of Detroit founds
World Medical Relief, an organization that has provided medical supplies
throughout the world for more than 40 years.
1961 Clara Raven* of Detroit is the first
woman physician to be a full colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
1965 Elly Peterson* of Charlotte is the
first woman to be state chair of a major political party in Michigan, as
chair of the Republican Party.
Viola Liuzzo of Detroit is the first white woman to be murdered as a
civil rights worker, while working for the movement in Alabama.
1967 Ann Holtgren Pellegreno* of Saline is
the first aviator in the U.S. to recreate the world flight of Amelia Earhart,
to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance in 1937.
Noreen Hillary of Grand Rapids and Kay Whitfield of Flint are the first
women to become Michigan State Police Troopers.
1968 The Michigan Women's Commission is
established by the Michigan State Legislature.
1969 Michigan's first chapter of the
National Organization for Women is convened by Patricia Hill Burnett* of
1970 Cornelia Kennedy* of Detroit is the
first woman to be a federal judge, with her appointment to the U.S. District
Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.
1971 The Women's Crisis Center is founded in
Ann Arbor, one of the first two rape crisis centers in the nation.
1972 Mary Stallings Coleman* of Battle Creek
is the first woman elected to the Michigan Supreme Court.
1973 The Michigan Women's Studies
Association, the first women's studies association in the nation, is founded
at Michigan State University
The Equal Rights Amendment is reintroduced in Congress by Rep. Martha
Griffiths* of Michigan, 50 years after it was
The first Title IX complaint against a university, charging gross
discrimination against women in athletics, is filed by Marcia J. Federbush*
of Ann Arbor.
Carolyn King* of Ypsilanti, at age 12, is the first girl in the country
to play in Little League Baseball.
1974 The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW)
is founded, with Olga Madar* of Detroit as its first president.
The Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Act, which labels rape as a violent
crime while insuring the victim's privacy, is passed after being drafted by
Virginia Nordby* of Ann Arbor.
Belita Cowan of Ann Arbor founds the National Women's Health Network, the
only national consumer organization devoted to women's health.
1975 ERAmerica, with Elly Peterson* of
Charlotte and Liz Carpenter as the first national co-chairs, is founded in
Washington, D.C., to win support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
The National Organization for Women's Wife Abuse Task Force in Washtenaw
County establishes Michigan's first network of private homes to shelter
survivors of domestic violence.
1976 ERAmerica is founded in Michigan by
Helen W. Milliken* of Traverse City.
1978 Margaret Brewer* of Durand is the first
woman to be a general in the U.S. Marine Corps.
1979 Mary Stallings Coleman* of Battle Creek
is the first woman to be chief
justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
1980 Marjorie Swank Matthews* of Onaway is
the first woman elected as a bishop in the United
1982 Martha W. Griffiths* of Romeo is the
first woman elected to the office of lieutenant
governor of Michigan.
Martha Mertz of Okemos founds the ATHENA Award Program to honor
outstanding business and professional women for their achievements,
community service and assistance to other women in gaining leadership
skills; the program becomes national in 1985 and international in 1994.
1983 The annual Celebration of Michigan
Women, at which historical and contemporary women
are inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, is founded by the
Michigan Women's Studies Association.
1984 Judith Craig* of Royal Oak is the first
woman to serve in Michigan as a bishop of the
United Methodist Church.
1986 Catherine Comet is the first woman in
the country to be the official conductor of a professional orchestra, as
conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.
1987 The Michigan Women's Historical Center
and Hall of Fame, the first historical center in the nation to focus on the
achievements of the women of a single state, is opened at Lansing by the
Michigan Women's Studies Association, with Gladys May Beckwith* as its first
Teola Hunter* of Detroit is the first woman elected as
speaker pro tem
of the Michigan House of Representatives.
1988 Yolanda Alvarado-Ortega of East Lansing
founds the Hispanic Women's Network of Michigan.
1990 Susan Hershberg Adelman of Southfield
is the first woman to be president of the Michigan State Medical Society in
its 124-year history.
1991 Melissa Rathbun-Nealy of Newaygo is the
first U.S. Army woman to be a prisoner of war in the Persian Gulf War.
1992 Merrily Dean Baker* of Okemos is the
first woman to be the athletic
director at a Big Ten university, at
Michigan State University.
A record number of women is elected to the U.S. Congress and the Michigan
Legislature, making a total of 47 women in the U.S. House of
Representatives, six women in the U.S. Senate, 25 women in the Michigan
House of Representatives, and three women in the
1993 Alta DeRoo of Paw Paw is one of the
first two women chosen for combat training as a U.S. Navy pilot.
Julie Krone of Eau Claire is the first woman jockey to win a triple crown
event in the Belmont Stakes and the first woman to win five races in one day
Collette Webster of Sunfield is the first American to die in the Bosnian
1994 Margaret Dhaene of Lansing is in the
first group of women in the U.S. Navy assigned to a combatant ship.
Candice Miller of Macomb County is the first woman elected as Michigan
secretary of state.
The first on-campus domestic violence shelter in the country is founded
at Michigan State University by Joanne McPherson of East Lansing.
1995 The first publicly funded
domestic violence shelter in the country is founded in Ann Arbor, with Susan
McGee as its executive director.
Suellen Finatri of Roscommon is the first woman to ride horseback from
St. Ignace to Anchorage, Alaska, starting out on February 1 and reaching
Anchorage by December.
The 75th anniversary of the
19th Amendment, ratified on August 26, 1920, is celebrated throughout
the year and those involved in the long struggle to win the vote for women
are honored for their courage and commitment to the cause of equal suffrage.
Stabenow is the first woman from Michigan elected to the U.S. Senate.
2002 Jennifer Granholm is
elected the first woman governor of Michigan.
2007 The Michigan Women's Historical Center,
founded by the Michigan Women's Studies Association and located in the
Cooley-Haze House in Lansing, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
*Starred names indicate women who are listed in
"Michigan Women: First and Founders Volume II," published by the
Michigan Women's Studies Association and available
Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame, 213 W. Malcolm X
Street, Lansing, MI 48933. To place an order, please
visit the Center's online gift shop or call 517-484-1880.