Houses Recall History of Women's Suffrage Group

Article excerpt

Byline: Diana Dretske

The American Woman's League was founded in 1908 to promote women's suffrage (the right to vote) and subscriptions to women's magazines.

Founded by Edward Gardner Lewis of the Lewis Publishing Company of St. Louis, the league built 39 chapter houses throughout the United States, including two in Lake County.

Lewis' vision for the American Woman's League was to create a subscription gathering agency for his publications. He also believed that the league, with his publishing company behind it, could promote women's suffrage. Lewis saw the league as a way to "advance, protect and uplift American womanhood through its own united efforts and to improve and refine the American home."

Women joined the League by selling or pledging to sell $52 in subscriptions to Lewis publications. Half of the $52 went into the League treasury and the other half paid publication and distribution costs.

Between 1909 and 1911, Lewis built 10 chapter houses in Illinois. The chapter house was intended for use as a social, educational and cultural center in the community. Women would gather to discuss world events, art and literature. On Lewis' orders, architects designed houses to "reflect woman's highest function, that of homemaker." The homes were built in the prairie style and were completely paid for by the league.

Chapter houses were built in North Chicago and Zion in 1910. Getting a chapter house in Zion proved difficult. …