Hoosier Women at Work

Hoosier Women at WorkOn March 26, 2016, the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Historical Bureau will host a conference “Hoosier Woman at Work. The conference held at the Indiana State Library and Historical Building will celebrate the many contributions of women’s work to Indiana history.

As part of our Bicentennial celebration, the one-day conference will explore and expand knowledge of women’s contributions to Indiana through their labor via speakers, presentations, and panel discussions. Conference keynote speaker, Dr. Nancy Gabin, historian of labor and gender studies, will provide an overview and remarks at the luncheon. Dr. Gabin is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Purdue University, and author of Feminism in the Labor Movement: Women and the United Auto Workers, 1935-1970, as well as numerous articles and anthologies on women, work, and the labor movement.

Hoosier women have been leaders in the many facets of labor. Virginia Claypool Meredith (1848-1936) is one example. Meredith’s career achievements, which earned her the title “Queen of American Agriculture,” began unexpectedly at age 33. Following her husband’s death, she took over management of the large family farm near Cambridge City, Indiana, and gained fame as one of the first women to show livestock to give public lectures on crop and livestock production. In 1889, Purdue University invited her to be the first speaker at the Farmers’ Institute. In 1921, she was appointed the first female member of the Purdue University Board of Trustees. Meredith founded the Indiana Federation of Women’s Clubs and Indiana’s first home economics clubs.

Another pioneer of women in the workforce is Lillian Thomas Fox. In 1891, the Indianapolis Freeman, a nationally known black newspaper hired Fox as a reporter and editor. In 1900, she went to work for the white male-dominated and white-owned Indianapolis News, becoming the first African-American writer for a white newspaper in Indiana. Fox founded the Indianapolis Women’s Improvement Club and was an organizing member of the Indianapolis Anti-Lynching League. She was also an active member of the Afro-American Council, the Negro Business League, the Atlanta Congress of Colored Women at the 1895 National Exposition and the National Association of Colored Women. Lillian Thomas Fox co-founded the Indianapolis Women’s Improvement Club in 1903 with Beulah Wright Porter, Indianapolis’ first woman African-American physician.

The Indiana State Library has many books about Hoosier women and their accomplishments. To learn about a few, check out 19 Stars of Indiana: Exceptional Hoosier Women by Michael S. Maurer; Outstanding Black Women in the State of Indiana, Henrietta Brown and Delores Smith, co-compilers; West Point Women of Indiana: Stories of Determination, Leadership, and Service by Susan E. Israel.

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, Reference and Government Services Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.