Women Public Speakers in the United States, 1800-1925: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

By Karlyn Kohrs Campbell | Go to book overview

CATHERINE WAUGH MCCULLOCH
(1862-1945), drama, humor, and legal argument in support of woman suffrage, peace, temperance, and social justice

CHARLES M. KAUFFMAN

From 1890 through the ratification of the suffrage amendment, Catharine Waugh McCulloch was one of the principal legal advisers to the suffrage movement. She was legislative superintendent of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association (IESA), 1890-1912, and the author of bills that gave Illinois women joint guardianship of children and raised the legal age of consent for women. She was the author and principal advocate of the "brilliant idea" to give Illinois women partial suffrage by revising Illinois statutes rather than by constitutional amendment ( Brown, 1946:83); suffrage historians called the 1913 Illinois victory "the turning point in the enfranchisement of twenty-five millions of women" ( Brown, 1946:94). She was elected justice of the peace in 1907, the first U.S. woman elected to judicial office. She worked for many causes: temperance, pacifism, and the legal rights of women and children. She served as a presidential elector for Woodrow Wilson in 1916. She was married in 1890 to Frank Hathorn McCulloch, and they raised four children in a large house two blocks from the Northwestern University campus in Evanston. After ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, she continued to work for the causes to which she had dedicated her life: peace, temperance, and social justice. A sought-after speaker, she was famous for her biting wit and careful argument. Although she is not well known today, in her lifetime her words inspired thousands, while her work bettered conditions for families throughout the United States.


BACKGROUND

Catharine Gouger Waugh was born in New York, but the family soon moved to a farm in northern Illinois. Her father Abraham Waugh had wanted to become a lawyer but lacked the money to realize his ambition. Although he spent his life as a farmer, he never lost his interest in the law. When court was in session, he spent whatever time he could observing trials and serving as a juror. He argued in his own behalf and for local merchants in several lawsuits to collect debts ( NAW2). At home, he encouraged a love of argument and interest in controversy. In a family history written for her children, she remembered, "So when he said to his argufying daughter, 'That's my little lawyer' he was apparently hoping to have me realize his own ambitions" (SL E29, 165). Her father debated the question of woman suffrage in Grange meetings during the 1870s, and both her parents came from families opposed to alcohol (SL E32, 792; E29, 119). It seems to have been a matter of faith that "anti" sentiments were a product of big city vices (SL E32, 792). Early in her life she saw a close

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