Hidden History: Demanding to vote, Burlingame woman joins suffrage movement

As was Louisa Schuyler of Burlingame, Victoria Woodhull was turned away from voting by a group of men, depicted in this illustration from Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 25, 1871. Woodhull ran for president the following year.

By Wendi Bevitt

In 1872, 48 years before the right to vote was granted to women, Louisa Schuyler of Burlingame, Kan., marched to the polls that November election day intent on placing her vote. She was halted from doing so on account of her sex and turned away, but her actions, as well as those of many other women that election year were to put into motion a change in the political tide.

Louisa Bigelow was born in 1816 and grew up in upstate New York not far from where the woman suffrage movement began. In the late 1850s, she and her father traveled to northeast Kansas to do what they could to ensure Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state. She worked intimately with leading members of the free-state cause such as James Lane and future Governor Charles Robinson. Part of her duties included assisting in distribution of funds that were sent from the east to aid in the protection of the freedom fighters and molding lead balls for the free-state defenders.

In 1860, she married widower Philip Schuyler, of Burlingame. Schuyler founded Burlingame in 1855 with Samuel Caniff. Both Schuyler and Caniff were staunch abolitionists and served in the territorial and state legislatures. Mr. Schuyler was the first Secretary of State in the Kansas government, and later became a judge in Osage County. Mr. Schuyler died in the summer of 1872, and in the fall of that year Louisa Schuyler attempted to register her vote.

The election of 1872 was the first major election after the formation of suffrage groups. Louisa Schuyler was following a strategy laid out the previous year by the National Woman Suffrage Association, which contended that since the Constitution defined a citizen as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States”, any woman fitting those qualifications should be granted the same rights. When denied the opportunity, Schuyler responded that she was “a taxpayer … and that no man or set of men had any right to deny her the privilege of exercising [her] right.”

She was not alone. That November many other women like Louisa Schuyler showed up nationwide to the polls demanding their vote be counted. Those that did were turned away, although their statement remained. Some like Susan B. Anthony in New York were allowed to vote, but later were arrested for doing so.

In 1867, the State Impartial Suffrage Association in Kansas had unsuccessfully campaigned for an amendment to allow equal suffrage to women and blacks within the state. Kansas did not see voting equality for women until the Equal Suffrage Amendment to the state constitution in 1912, when it was the eighth state to create such an amendment. Nationally women were not allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed in 1920.

Not long after her public statement, Louisa returned to New York to care for her aging mother. Later, she returned to Kansas to care for her sister residing in Westmoreland. She is buried in the Westmoreland Cemetery.


wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She has lived in Osage County for 18 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.



One Response to Hidden History: Demanding to vote, Burlingame woman joins suffrage movement

  1. OsageWayne says:

    Wendi reported that on this day in 1912, Kansas passed that Equal Suffrage Amendment.

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