May Wright Sewall (1844-1920)

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Stephens, Barbara Jane, 1943-
White, Ray (Raymond E.)
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
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This study investigates the ideas and work of May Wright Sewall, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century reformer in education, women's rights and peace. May involved herself in many areas where she saw the need for change--specifically into areas where she felt women were being either omitted entirely or at least discriminated against. The work emphasizes May's efforts at reform in each of these areas and as such is neither a full-scale biography nor a history of any one reform movement. Attention has also been given to May's interest in spiritualism--a private part of her life for more than twenty years.May was a great organizer of clubs, especially those for women, and one of her greatest achievements was to consolidate hundreds of women's societies into a large national and international organization. This was accomplished in the year 1888 with her founding of the National and International Councils of Women. These Societies included every interestElizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to the Rambai Circle which promoted child-widow care in India.Although most widely known for her work in these Councils, May worked hardest as a suffragist. In 1878, she founded the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society which was from the National Woman's Suffrage Association headed by later extended into a state-wide society. In 1882 she chaired the executive committee of the National Woman Suffrage Association and remained in this position for eight years. In 1893 she presided over the World's Congress of Representative Women at the Chicago World's Fair.In addition to lecturing widely throughout the United States and in many foreign countries for women's rights, she was active in promoting world peace. An active member of the American Peace Society, she espoused the cause among women's organizations persuading both the National and the International Councils to adopt peace programs.Despite her national and international commitments, Mrs. Sewall was still actively involved in local affairs. She was a co-founder and principal of the Girls' Classical School in Indianapolis. In this position she not only advocated a woman's right to equal educational opportunities, but she also put into practice some educational reforms--specifically those in women's physical education and home economics.She published numerous articles and pamphlets and was editor of a woman's column in the Indianapolis Times for over two years. She wrote the Indiana chapter in History of Woman Suffrage edited by Susan B. Anthony and Ida H. Harper and a chapter in Women's Work in America edited by Annie Nathan Meyer. She also edited several volumes dealing with aspects of the women's movement including: The World's Congress of Representative Women (2 Volumes, 1894); The International Council of Women, 1899-1904 (2 Volumes, 1904); Genesis of the International Council and the Story of Its Growth (1914); Women, World War and Permanent Peace (1915) and an autobiographical account of her adventures in the realm of spiritualism, Neither Dead Nor Sleeping (1920).