Despite an overcast sky and blustery weather, more than a hundred people turned out Oct. 30 to witness the dedication of the official Illinois historical marker celebrating the life and career of Catharine McCulloch, renowned Evanston attorney, suffragette, political activist and early supporter of women’s rights.
The marker, on the south side of McCulloch Park just off Livingston Street, reads: “VOTES FOR WOMEN. Catharine Waugh McCulloch political activist & legal strategist for IL women’s suffrage, gained in 1913. Park named in her honor.” Below the marker is a large stone inscribed: “CATHARINE W. MCCULLOCH Evanston attorney, activist and champion of women’s equality, first woman justice of the peace in Illinois.”
Officials on hand at the ceremony included City Council member Eleanor Revelle, in whose Seventh Ward the park is located; Mayor Daniel Biss; and local State representatives Robyn Gabel and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz.
Also in attendance was Evanston resident Mary McCulloch and her sister, Ann, who lives in California, both great-granddaughters of Catharine McCulloch.
Mary McCulloch told the RoundTable before the ceremony that “it was humbling to walk in the footsteps of my great-grandmother. As an ordained minister, I am inspired by Catharine to strive for change, especially in our current climate of unrest and dis-ease.”
In her remarks to the crowd, Ann McCulloch said the park was a fitting place for her great-grandmother’s historical marker because “she loved gardens, especially gardens accessible to all.”
Ann highlighted her great-grandmother’s determination “to get things done” with her writing, speeches and pioneering legal career. She cited Catharine’s half-century marriage and joint law practice with Frank McCulloch as a “role model for men and women working together equally. They accomplished a lot, including advocating for suffrage throughout the state.”
Lori Osborne, Executive Director of the Evanston Women’s History Project, called McCulloch “one of my favorite suffragettes. She didn’t back down, she didn’t give up. She used her mind and knowledge to find a way. She was simply remarkable.”
According to the program handed out at the ceremony, “In 1913, McCulloch’s legislation granting Illinois women the right to vote on a partial ballot finally passed, making Illinois the first state east of the Mississippi to give women the right to vote. McCulloch was an integral part of the national campaign for passage of the 19th Amendment and celebrated when Illinois became the first state to ratify it in June 1919 and when it passed into law in August 1920.”
More information is available at catharinewaughmcculloch.com.
Refreshing to read some positive American history about a woman who made a major difference with her talent and determination to bring people together for the good of all.
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