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MS 211 - Vadae G. Meekison Collection


The correspondence and printed material of Vadae G. Meekison, a lawyer in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, spans from 1903 to 1965. The collection profiles the efforts of Meekison to organize pro-suffrage support in Henry County in the 1910s. Letters, newspapers, printed material, and literary productions provide insight into campaign strategy on a state, local, and individual level. Meekison's local civic service is evidenced in her "History of the Red Cross," and her friendship with Judge Florence E. Allen is sketched by news articles and some correspondence.

Two taped interviews with Meekison are available. One is at the Napoleon Public Library as part of a University of Michigan project. Meekison was one of several Napoleon residents recalling local history. The second is an oral history interview of Meekison and is located at the Ohio Historical Society.

The records were donated and transferred to the Center for Archival Collections in January 1982 through the cooperation of Meekison's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Mary Fran Meekison, of Napoleon, and Jill Gates Smith, field specialist for the Women's Studies Archives Project. Literary and property rights have been dedicated to the public and duplication is permitted for the purpose of preservation and scholarly research. The David Meekison Family requests that they be informed of "who uses this material; and for what purpose, especially if it is used in a published paper or work." The register was prepared by J. G. Smith in March 1982.

Biographical Sketch

Vadae G. Meekison (1884-1981) was an attorney and suffragist in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio. She was born in West Virginia and lived in Kansas; Detroit, Michigan; and Indiana before moving to Ohio with her husband George. She received her law degree from Valparaiso (Indiana) University and was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1907. She was a critical figure in Ohio's Woman Suffrage Movement because of her work as a speaker, petitioner and local organizer during a "golden era of idealism, especially among women," i.e., the period of 1905-1920.

She met Florence E. Allen in 1912 while campaigning for suffrage and maintained a life-long friendship. Allen followed a brilliant career in law and eventually served as a judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. in 1948.

Meekison was married throughout this period and gave birth to a daughter, Virginia (1909) and a son David (1913), both of whom practiced law. Virginia is now retired from the State Department and living in Washington, D.C.; David continues a third-generation law practice in Napoleon, Ohio.

In 1917, Meekison coordinated the founding and charter of the Napoleon Red Cross. She was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1926, after which she shared a practice with her husband. She continued an active political and civic life with her professional obligations. Both she and her husband retired in 1969. George died in 1977; Vadae continued to live in Napoleon until her death in August 1981.

Meekison's Obituary (August 5, 1981)

Vadae Meekison

Pioneering Woman Lawyer Campaigned for Suffrage

NAPOLEON, O. -- Mrs. Vadae Meekison, 97, a pioneering woman attorney and campaigner for women's voting rights, died Tuesday in Heller Memorial Hospital here.

Mrs. Meekison practiced law in Henry County with her husband, George, more than 40 years, until both retired in 1969. Her husband died in 1977.

Mrs. Meekison is believed to have been the first woman lawyer in Henry County.

She had earned her law degree in 1907 from Valparaiso University law school in Valparaiso, Ind., one of the few law schools in the nation willing, at the time, to accept a woman student.

Law School Hall of Fame

In 1956, she was the first woman elected to the Valparaiso law school hall of fame.

When her two children became old enough to allow her to work, she began her practice in Henry County, after taking the Ohio bar examination in 1926.

In her law office, she was part of a large and longstanding Meekison family tradition. Her husband's father had founded the Meekison & Donovan firm in 1873. Her son David, continues as a member of the firm, and her daughter, Virginia Meekison, worked as an attorney for the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Her grandson, David, Jr., practices law in Canton, O.

By the time she began the practice of law, she already was known statewide for her campaigning for women's voting rights.

Crisscrossed The State

She joined forces with Judge Florence Allen in 1912 and crisscrossed the state for the rest of the decade, addressing countless meetings on the topic of suffrage. Her basic speech was entitled "Women Must Eat, Too."

Mrs. Meekison was also active in civic affairs in Henry County. At the outbreak of World War I, she took the lead in organizing the Henry County unit of the American Red Cross. In 1919, she was chosen to christen the ocean-going oil tanker USS Henry County, which had been built in Lorain, O.

She was a member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church, National Association of Women Lawyers, Henry County Bar Association, Napoleon Soroptomist Club, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Also surviving are two other grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at the Walker Mortuary, Napoleon, where the body will be after 2 p.m. Thursday.

The family requests that any tributes be in the form of contributions to the church or a charity of the donor's choice.

Scope and Content

The heart of the Vadae G. Meekison Collection lies in the fifty-six letters written to Meekison by President Harriet Taylor Upton and other officers of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association between 1912 and 1916. They offer an intimate view of the political and personal pressures Upton felt, particularly before and after the Ohio Special Election of September 3, 1912, in which the suffrage amendment was defeated. The correspondence is one-sided but offers enough information to establish the train of queries and responses from Meekison. Suffrage speakers on the campaign circuit through northwest Ohio are identified by name (Helen Todd, Clara P. Laddey, Mrs. Ella Reeve Bloor, Minnie Bronson, Mrs. Frances Goddard, Ella S. Stewart, Miss Ellis Meredith, Miss Mary Graham Rice, Pauline Steinem, Miss Edith Weld Peck, Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth J. Hauser) The Association letterhead shows the shift in personnel over the four year period. Upton's closing remarks to Meekison are increasingly affectionate with constant concern for the health of Meekison's family.

Appendages to that core are speeches, brochures, flyers, advertisements, and special-interest newspapers, which are all pro-suffrage. The only negative sentiment comes from news clippings. Material directly concerning Judge Florence E. Allen is limited. Some newspaper reminiscences loosely chart her early years as a suffrage worker, while other articles provide endorsements for various political appointments (to the U. S. Supreme Court) and campaigns (for U. S. Senator) in her career.

The spirit of the women and the Woman Suffrage Movement is clearest through the Upton letters. The view-point is from a class of white, middle-class women who were politically aware and able to travel for the purpose of publicizing the movement. These letters are most helpful in illustrating the dedication of suffragists to the single issue of franchisement for women and the means by which this issue was expressed and supported.

Series Description


1934, 1956, 1961, 1965.
Includes letter of recommendation, plans for an autobiography, and personal sentiment.

Arranged chronologically
Includes personal correspondence and form letters from President Harriet Taylor Upton and other officers; plans for pro-suffrage campaign strategy and lecture tours in Henry County and northwest Ohio.


Photocopy of "History of the Red Cross" by Vadae G. Meekison--History of the International Red Cross and the Napoleon Chapter begun by Meekison in 1917.

1906, n.d.
Photocopy of "The Law and the Lady" given by Vadae G. Meekison upon graduation from Valparaiso University; anecdotal speech about suffrage campaign.

Pre-printed postcard for Everywoman Magagzine.

"What Five Governors Have to Say about Woman Suffrage" printed by the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association.

"Woman Suffrage--Its Relation to Working Women and Children" by Florence Kelly of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

1905-1916, 1981.
Includes articles and letters printed in newspapers related to legislative and suffrage events; portions of speeches and debates; obituary for Vadae G. Meekison.

1912, 1913, 1914, n.d.
Announcing procedures for circulating Initiative Petitions, Woman Suffrage Association events, speakers; warns against unauthorized circulars being distributed.

March 20, 1948, 1950.
The Woman's Journal--Ohioana Edition.
The Alumni News, Valparaiso (Indiana) University, "Woman Lawyer, Grad of '07"

1902, 1903, 1914, 1916, 1918, 1926, 1938, 1948.
Includes Progress, quarterly organ of the National Woman Suffrage Association; Everywoman, suffrage weekly for Ohio women; Headquarters News Bulletin, published bi-monthly by the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association; Labor, special interest issue of the Associated Railroad Labor Organizations; The Toledo News-Bee; and The Liberty Press, Liberty Center, Ohio.

The last three items provide background and endorsements for Judge Florence E. Allen and reminiscences of Meekison about her friendship with Allen.

The Progress for 1902 and 1903 and Everywoman for 1914 have been encapsulated and flat-filed with the collection.

"Ohio Laws of Interest to Women: A Summary" printed by Woman Suffrage Party of Cuyahoga County.

Reviews of This Constitution of Ours by Florence Ellinwood Allen--essays on the history and effects of the U.S. Constitution.

Judge Florence Allen's professional career and a summary of speaking engagements in the 1950s.

Updated lyrics of a 1912 suffrage song, "Just as Well as He"

"Year Book of Ohio Woman Suffrage Association" summarizing the constitution, bylaws, plan of work, membership, president's report, and program of the 29th Annual Convention.


Judge Florence E. Allen and members of the Ohio Supreme Court.


Box 1


  1. Correspondence, 1912-1913
  2. Correspondence, 1914-1916
  3. Correspondence--Florence Allen, 1934, 1956, 1961, 1965
  4. Memoir, n.d.
  5. Speeches, 1906, n.d.
  6. Printed material, miscellaneous, 1912-1948
  7. Clippings, 1905-1916, 1981
  8. Newspapers, 1926 (Labor), 1938 (Toledo News-Bee)
  9. Newspaper/letter, 1948 (Liberty Press), 1950 (Alumni News)
  10. Printed material for Florence E. Allen, 1940, n.d.
  11. Photograph, 1933-1934

Oversize encapsulated newspapers

  1. 1902 Progress
  2. 1903 Progress
  3. 1914 Everywoman

MS 211 Meekison Transcript List