Women’s History Month: Influential Local Women Throughout History

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Throughout history women have made significant contributions in all walks of life. The following local women are among those whose achievements warrant merit and appreciation from men and women alike.

Elnora Babcock
Elnora Babcock was a well known suffragist from Dunkirk, NY. She was known to have headed the first Political Equality Club in Chautauqua County. She also presided over the first women’s suffrage meeting ever held at the Chautauqua Assembly. She passed away in 1934, living to see the passage of the 19th amendment.

Kate Stoneman
Kate Stoneman was born in Lakewood, NY and was the first woman to pass the NY bar exam and to attend and graduate from law school at Albany Law. Her original application to join the bar was rejected because of her gender, causing her to launch what was a successful campaign to amend the bar’s Code of Civil Procedure. She passed away in 1925.

Carolyn Seymour
Carolyn Seymour was Jamestown’s first female mayor, holding the title from 1992-1993. She was known to be one of the first women to dominate in politics and to be elected to a high office, along with being the caretaker that Jamestown needed at the time and also as a very kind person. Seymour passed away recently in August 2020 at the age of 81.

Jenn Suhr
Jenn Suhr was born in Fredonia, NY in 1982. In 2006 she earned the title of #1 American Pole Vaulter, and has retained that title since. She earned a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics and a gold medal at the London Olympics. She also currently holds the world indoor pole vaulting record and American women’s indoor pole vaulting record.

Catherine Harris

Catherine Harris was a pivotal part of running the Underground Railroad in Jamestown during the time before the Civil War. As a free African American woman, Harris did all she could to help slaves escape to Canada through Chautauqua County. She was also one of Jamestown’s first African American residents. She died in 1907 at the age of 98.

Edith Ainge

Edith Ainge was born in England but moved to Jamestown at a young age and became a known suffragist in the 1900s. Edith Ainge was arrested six times for protesting before women fully gained the right to vote in 1920 with the passing of the 19th amendment. Ainge would continue to fight for women’s rights in America and around the world until her death in 1948.

Lucille Ball

Mostly known for her role as a comedian and her show, “I Love Lucy”, Lucille Ball broke many barriers for women in the entertainment business. Her life is celebrated in many different places across the Jamestown area, such as the Lucy Desi Museum. Ball passed away in 1989.