Cecilia Hennel Hendricks and the First Woman Governor

With the 2016 elections close—and the possibility of the election of the first woman U.S. president in history—it’s important to remember how far women have come across the frontier of American politics. As you undoubtedly know, women did not obtain the right to vote in this country until 1920 when the states ratified the 19th amendment to the Constitution. It took almost 100 years after that for a woman to be seriously considered for the highest level of office. But years earlier, in the very wake of women’s suffrage, Nellie Tayloe Ross would become the first woman governor of any state.

Nellie Tayloe Ross: "The Woman Who Made Good"

Ross became the governor of Wyoming in 1925, easily earning the office after the death of her husband a year earlier. According to many prominent politicians of the time, she was the “woman who made good;” Republicans and Democrats alike agreed, for the most part, that she had done her duty well during her two years in office. With how little effort it took her to get the vote and earn office in the first place, many believed it should have been smooth sailing when the time came for reelection in 1926. A number of women stood behind her and worked the campaign in order to keep her on the Democratic ticket. But the effort proved more difficult than anticipated; enter Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, former IU teacher and alumna, who would see firsthand the obstacles in fundraising for a female candidate.

Cecilia Hennel Hendricks

Hendricks, formerly Hennel, was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1883. She attended IU, performing as an exceptional student and leader both in and out of the classroom, and was even elected as the editor-in-chief of the campus yearbook, The Arbutus, in 1907. By 1908, she had earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. For the years to follow, she held positions on the Indiana University faculty as an instructor in the English department and an assistant editor of publications. So how did an accomplished woman living in Indiana with a career underway end up working the campaign for the governor of Wyoming? The same way anyone would: by marrying a bee farmer.

A marriage to John Hendricks of Honeyhill Farm took her all the way to Wyoming for an interlude in her IU career, and after a few years she would find herself swept up in the efforts for women in politics.

The Election of 1926

The Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers contains a file with a good chunk of the correspondence between Hendricks and others about Wyoming’s 1926 gubernatorial race. Through these papers, it’s fairly easy to discern her role in the campaign and how she managed to become a part of this political movement. It should be mentioned that Hendricks was not only working for Ross’s reelection at the time, but was CHH brochure for Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1926also herself running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction under the same ticket– although, it almost seems as though she became more concerned with Ross’s election than her own. She wrote letters to major political and activist figures (mostly women) to either solicit money, ask for lists of other people whom she could solicit for money, or to ask for advice on Ross’s campaign, all the while using the discourse of women’s rights to make her plea. To Mrs. Ruth McCormick, a U.S. representative from Illinois and activist for women’s suffrage, she wrote:

“…For the first time, a woman is a candidate for governor on a purely business proposition, simply on the record of her efficiency. Heretofore the element of sympathy has entered into every campaign where a woman has asked for high office. If Governor Ross were a man, there would be no question in the world of her re-election. She has demonstrated that a capable woman is just as successful as any man. She has shown that there is no sex in brains and ability. It is unnecessary to say that the whole future of women in politics hinges on their being accepted when, and only when, they prove efficient and capable for the job in question.

From this, Hendricks went on to ask for a donation to the campaign funds.

Not all of her attempts were fruitful. In fact, a majority of the responses Hendricks saved were polite, yet firm rejections to contribute to the campaign. Mary Roberts Rinehart, an American mystery novelist, wrote that she was “not a citizen of the state” and that she “really think[s] it would be an impertinence on [her] part to suggest anyone to them as the party of their choice, or to contribute to the campaign, or to align [her]self on either side of the politics of [Wyoming].” Still, Hendricks remained adamant, writing to a number of other possible donors, including the editor of Good Housekeeping in New York (hoping they would publish an article she wrote about Ross) and Emily Newell Blair, a writer and one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. Blair stated that, although she could not donate, she had convinced others to donate to the cause. Aside from solicitation, Hendricks remained alongside Ross for the majority of the campaign, attending many of her rallies and reporting on the success of her speeches. Her file includes a hefty stack of newspaper clippings that mention Ross’s highs and lows during election and as governor of Wyoming.

The Aftermath of Loss

Nellie Tayloe Ross lost the election to Frank Emerson by a narrow margin. Naturally, her supporters were disappointed by the surprising loss. It might have meant a severe backtracking in the way of women’s rights. Hendricks, however, took it upon herself to write a heartfelt and compelling letter to Ross after the election had fizzled.

CCH to NTR, 5 November 1926

“I feel personally,” she wrote, “in spite of defeat, that there is a good deal of comfort to be derived from participating in a campaign, for when one counts the increased information about her state, the contact with fine people everywhere, the friendships made, and above all, the knowledge gained that will be the basis for better work in the future, one must feel it is all far more than worth while.” Hendricks reminded Ross, and us all, of the true spirit of election season and all of the benefits of participating in American politics.

Sorry to report that Hendricks also lost her race as State Superintendent of Education. Hendricks remained in Wyoming until 1931, when she returned to Indiana University. Back in Bloomington, she continued with her impressive drive. As a member of the Dept. of English faculty, she went on to found the IU Writers Conference, held office as president of the Women’s Faculty Club in 1941, and made an overall remarkable impression upon our school.

Office of Women’s Affairs

Office of Women's Affairs-"Majority Report" Newsletter, Apr. 1989
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Majority Report” Newsletter, Apr. 1989

The Office for Women’s Affairs (OWA) was established on August 15, 1972 in response to the growing awareness of discrimination against women in the academic community. Bloomington Chancellor Byrum E. Carter stated that the OWA’s purpose was to “establish a climate in which women faculty, students, and staff are provided with full opportunities for the development of their abilities.” One of the greatest responsibilities of the OWA was to advocate on behalf of women and other IU community members who felt discriminated against.

OWA’s first dean was Eva Kagan-Kans, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature. During her post from 1972-1975, her function, she stated, was to be an “ombudswoman,” investigating specific grievances, reviewing salaries and budgets for gender discrimination, examining access to research opportunities in graduate program, and redressing the underrepresentation of women at the faculty and administrative levels. Kagan-Kans also counseled undergraduates on future career choices at both the college and high school levels.  Jessie Lavan-Kerr, a professor of Art Education, served as OWA’s second dean. In 1976, while noting the “foundational inroads” the OWA made under the leadership of Kagan-Kans, Lavan-Kerr specified a need for “redefinition” of the office, gearing it to more “action-oriented directives” regarding equal opportunities for women faculty, students, and staff. Lavan-Kerr was dean from 1975 until 1979.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Among Women" Newsletter, Oct. 1981
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Among Women” Newsletter, Oct. 1981

OWA’s third dean, D’ann Campbell, was an assistant (later associate) professor of History and an adjunct associate of Women’s Studies. Campbell saw her job as an “advocate.” OWA’s function, she stated, lay in “coordinating, funneling, and being a catalyst for a lot of projects to enhance the status of women on campus. We’re the affirmative side of Affirmative Action. We don’t wait until something falls apart. We can be sensitive to areas in which there are potential problems.” Under Campbell’s leadership, OWA oversaw the development of such projects as creating a videotape dealing with sexual harassment on campus (the first of its kind in the country), addressing the lack of female social networks in graduate school, and conferences to integrate women’s history into standard course work (80% of Western Civilization and American History courses never mentioned women in either books or lectures). Campbell was dean of OWA from 1979 until 1985. In 1985, Nancy Brooks succeeded Campbell, serving as interim director.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1" Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1” Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus" Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus” Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Collection of OWA records housed at the University Archives contains flyers, correspondence, advertisements, grant information, mentor-mentee program information, data on reports, and surveys of students, faculty, and staff members at Indiana University. All matters pertaining to the OWA are now handled by the Office of the Dean of Students (for student concerns) or the Provost’s office (for staff and faculty concerns). The Collection has been updated with newly acquired materials and is open for research. Contact the IU Archives for more information.

Marina Svetlova

Marina Svetlova was born Yvette von Hartmann on May 3, 1922 to Russian parents in Paris, France. She began studying dance at a young age and debuted professionally as a 6401_hchild performer in 1931 with the experimental dance troupe of Ida Rubinstein. While in Paris, Svetlova studied under Vera Trefilova, Lubov Egorova, and various other Russian emigres ballerinas. She became a soloist with the Original Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in her late twenties, dancing with the company for three seasons. After leaving Ballet Russe, Svetlova came to the United States.

In the U.S. she danced as a guest artist with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City and as Prima Ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet for seven seasons from 1943-1950, leading the opera’s 1949 and 1950 tours. During this time, she created her own touring dance troupe, which flourished until 1969. In addition to her performance career, Svetlova was also a teacher and choreographer. She worked for the Southern Vermont Art Center from 1959-1964 before founding the Svetlova Dance Center in Dorset, VT in 1965, which she directed during the summers until 1995.

Svetlova joined the IU School of Music and its Ballet Department as a part-time instructor in the spring of 1970. By the fall, she was named department chair, a role she held until her retirement in 1992. Svetlova remained in Bloomington until her death on February 11, 2009.

The Archives holds a small collection of Svetlova’s papers that primarily documents her career as a performer. Included are a journal, performance programs, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, and scrapbooks. Contact the Archives for further information!

The Breadth of a Family Papers Collection

The Archives is proud to say that the finding aid for the Cecilia Hennel Hendricks family papers is now available because this collection truly is a veritable treasure trove of both American and personal family history!

Cecilia, Edith, and Cora Hennel

As this rich collection tells the story of the family of Joseph and Anna Thurman Hennel,  it will help to know a bit of their family history. Joseph and Anna had three daughters: Cecilia, Cora, and Edith and in 1905 they chose to move from Vanderburgh County, Ind., to Bloomington so that their daughters could attend Indiana University. All three daughters went on to teach at IUB, with Cecilia and Cora having the lengthiest careers, beginning in 1904 and serving for 30 and 46 years, respectfully. (Cora became the first woman to get a PhD in mathematics at IU, and only the second person, male or female, to do so!)

Cecilia married John Hendricks and had three children, namesake Cecilia (married Henry Wahl) , Anne (married John R. DeCamp), and Jules Ord (Lois Armstrong Hendricks). Edith married lawyer Edward Ellis, while Cora remained single.

War, finances, and land

If soldiers are your interest, you might like to know that during the Civil War Joseph Hennel was a member of Company I, 65th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry and included in the collection is a small Civil War diary from 1864. John Hendricks fought in the Hendricks 010Spanish-American War in 1898, where he was wounded in battle. Several folders of correspondence chronicle his lifetime petition for his rightful veteran’s pension. The collection also includes correspondence with his family during his time in the war and hospitalization.

John Hendricks' Honorable Discharge from the Spanish-American War
John Hendricks’ Honorable Discharge from the Spanish-American War

 

 

 

 

Interested in the financial lives of people living in the mid- to late 1800s? There are ledgers and account books galore for Joseph’s personal and business finances. We also have a folder of receipts and checks written to “Stables and Livery,” “Boots company,” and “Undertaker” services, as well as bills paid for telephone/telegraph services and electricity services.

The collection also includes personal and business ledgers and account books for Cecilia Hennel Hendricks and her husband John who lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming as homesteaders for a number of years, and raised bees for honey on their farm Honeyhill.

(By the by, Cecilia & John’s daughter Cecilia later published a selection of their correspondence in Letters from Honeyhill: A Woman’s View of Homesteading. It – and rightly so – gets rave reviews on Goodreads!)

The Hennel-Hendricks Women

The stars of this collection, however, are the women in family. While the collection does not house anything from Anna Thurman Hennel’s household life, there are numerous folders of correspondence over the years with her daughters. She was also very vocal (according to family letters) in getting the Hennel family to move from Evansville to Bloomington, Indiana so that their daughters could attend Indiana University.

The collection houses years of personal diaries and date books for both Cecilia and Cora, as well as boxes and boxes of family and business correspondence. While Edith’s voice is present throughout the years of correspondence, her presence is most felt through the many years’ worth of annual scrapbooks she put together documenting the families’ whereabouts and doings, using cartoons and handwritten or typed captions, which she made and sent to Cecilia Hennel Hendricks as holiday and New Year’s greetings. Cecilia and Cora were both published poets, as well as playwrights, and their various writings, musings, manuscripts, acceptance/rejection letters are housed in the collection. Cecilia also coauthored the first Palau-English Dictionary while she taught in Palau via IU in 1950, and Cora coauthored a mathematics textbook, A Course in General Mathematics in 1925.

Article in Scribner's Magazine, vol. 84, no. 1, July, 1928
Article in Scribner’s Magazine,
vol. 84, no. 1, July, 1928

If giving up a university teaching position to marry (a man she had only met a few times!) and moving to the wilds of Wyoming doesn’t tell you about Cecilia’s drive, perhaps a little political work will? In 1926 during her time in Powell, Wyoming, she worked on the Nellie Tayloe Ross‘ re-election campaign for Wyoming governor, after Ross served as the first female governor in the United States when her husband died and left the office vacant in 1924. Cecilia was supported for the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and campaigned with Ross.

The richness of this collection is evidenced through the hand and typewritten boxes of letters, published and unpublished writings and manuscripts, ledgers and account books, diaries and date books, and much much more. The lives of an entire family are essentially chronicled through this collection, and provide a lens through which we can look at American history and the lives of 19th Century female American scholars, homesteaders, and business-folk.

A blog post cannot do this collection justice, so as always, if you would like further information or would like to schedule an appointment to see the collection, please contact the Archives!