Smiths Grove College was established in 1875 and operated as such until 1901, when it became the Vanderbilt Training School and then Warren Baptist Academy. Today, North Warren Elementary School is located on the site.
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, let’s look at some notes, probably from the 1890s, of a debate at Smiths Grove College on “a question that is agitating the whole nation,” namely whether “it is right to give to women the same right[s] as we do to men.”
Listing the arguments in favor, our anonymous scribe was both principled and practical. Times had changed, and as the barriers to women’s property ownership and entry into the professions were disappearing, so too should their political disabilities. “Suppose some woman owns a farm and she would have a hired hand. This hired hand would be allowed to elect the officers of the country and she would have no voice whatever although she is paying taxes,” observed our proponent. Contrary to fears that politics would corrupt the female sex, the grant of suffrage would allow women to “purify politics.”
But no consideration of the issue was complete without addressing Biblical notions of women’s roles, to which our writer responded wryly and dismissively. When the Apostle Paul called upon women to be obedient and “keep silence in the churches,” his admonition came at a time when “there were about a dozen women in the country and all they knew was to have some fried meat & bread ready when the men got hungry.” True, it was Eve who gave Adam the apple to eat, “but I’ll venture to say,” concluded our debater, “that he helped her up in the tree and then gave her the core.”
Click here to access a finding aid for the collection of Smiths Grove College materials containing these righteous feminist arguments, housed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections. For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.