Secretary's Book of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association
This book of minutes for a woman's rights organization documents its fight for full civil rights in the state constitution.
"It shall be the object of the Society to secure to woman her natural rights and to advance her educational interests."-- Article Second, Preamble and Constitution of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association, Feb. 13, 1858
More than 50 years before women were granted full voting rights in Kansas, the Moneka Woman's Rights Association fought for women's rights in the territory. Organized in 1858 in Moneka, Kansas, the association included both male and female members. Officers were elected quarterly and often were drawn from the ranks of prominent abolitionists, such as members of the Wattles family. Meetings consisted of an address and discussion of a question, both related to women's rights issues. From the outset, the association fought for the inclusion of political and civil rights for women in the territory's constitution.
To publicize its cause, the association resolved to invite "such women lecturers as are accustomed to public speaking" to Kansas. The association also wrote letters to free-state newspapers to promote women's rights. Clarina Nichols, a prominent New England activist who had moved to Kansas in 1854, served as the association's most vocal spokeswoman. A friend and mentor to Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nichols led the fight to obtain property rights for women in Vermont before moving to Kansas.
The association appointed Nichols to serve as a delegate to the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1859. She addressed the convention on July 13 and argued eloquently for woman suffrage and property rights.
While the convention ultimately rejected extending full equal political rights to women, the Wyandotte Constitution gave women the right to vote in school district elections, as well as granting legal protection of property and equal guardianship of children. While women were not granted full voting rights in Kansas until 1912, the efforts of Nichols and other members of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association greatly advanced the cause of women's rights.
The secretary's book of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association is housed in the State Archives at the Kansas Historical Society. The book contains the minutes of the association's meetings, as well as its preamble, constitution, and list of members. The entire secretary's book has been digitized as a part of the Territorial Kansas Online project.
Entry: Secretary's Book of the Moneka Woman's Rights Association
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2004
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.