Submitted by The Upton Association and Kayla Metzger
Harriet Taylor Upton was born December 17, 1853 in Ravenna, Ohio, the daughter of Ezra Taylor, an Ohio judge. The Taylor’s moved to Warren, Ohio, in 1861, and later purchased the home now known as the Harriet Taylor Upton House in 1873 from the Perkins family. Harriet graduated from Warren High School in the same year. Harriet’s father was appointed to Congress in 1880, and she accompanied him to Washington, D.C. while Congress was in session. She became known in society for her literary ability and amiable character. She married Attorney George Upton in 1884.
Upton emerged as one of the leading voices of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 1890s, and spent thirty years dedicating herself to the passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1891, she hosted a gathering of women seeking equal rights, known as the Ohio Women in Convention, within her home. Upton served as a key organizer and the first president of the Suffrage Association of Warren, as well as the president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association from 1899 to 1908 and again from 1911 to 1920. She stated in a 1912 letter to a friend on Ohio Woman Suffrage Association letterhead, “Not for our sakes alone, then, but for the success of our cause throughout the land is it our duty to make ‘Ohio Next;’” referring to the vote to provide women equal suffrage.
Upton was also a member (1890) and later the treasurer (1894-1909) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the product of the merger between the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1890. She brought the national headquarters to her home in Warren, Ohio from 1903 to 1905, during which the National Conference was held there in 1904. The organization then temporarily relocated its headquarters to the Trumbull County Courthouse until 1909. Upton served as the chairman of NAWSA’s congressional committee with colleagues Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt, among others, and was instrumental in opening the diplomatic corps to women, in placing women on the Advisory Committee of the Conference for Limitation of the Arms, and in the final reporting out and passage of the Child Labor Bill. Several months prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, NAWSA transitioned into the League of Women Voters, of which Upton was a charter member. She was recognized by the Washington Post as, “…without a doubt the best liked and wisest suffrage worker in the country. Always in times of stress, the other state leaders have to call in Mrs. Upton.”
Throughout her life, Upton participated in a variety of other state, national, and international organizations, including the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Society. In 1898, she was the first woman elected to the Warren Board of Education. In 1920, she was elected Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee, the first woman to serve on the highest national body of Republican politics. She stepped down from her position in 1924 in order to pursue a position in Congress, like her father, however was unsuccessful in the primary election in Ohio’s 19th District. Upton had a variety of interests and hobbies, and was considered an excellent cook, needlewoman, author, realtor, and orator. She was a prolific author of children’s books and books on historical themes, including but not limited to, “Our Early Presidents: Their Wives and Children, from Washington to Jackson” (1982), “A Twentieth Century History of Trumbull County” (1909), “A History of the Western Reserve” (1910), and an autobiography ”Random Recollections” (2004, written 1927).
Upton passed away in Pasadena, California on November 2, 1945 at the age of 91. She was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1981.