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March 9th, 2024 Northwestern University
White Auditorium, 2211 Campus Drive, Kellogg School of Business, Evanston Il
CATHARINE WAUGH MCCULLOCH
Illinois lawyer in 1886 and partner in McCulloch and McCulloch law firm with her husband Frank, Catharine Waugh McCulloch was dedicated to women’s suffrage, temperance and peace. Catharine and Frank raised their children, Hugh, Hathorn, Catharine and Frank in Evanston Illinois.
Her story is representative of other women attorneys and leaders who were the first to step in to roles that had been off-limits to women and in doing so, created new paths for women to obtain legal protections, qualify to vote, qualify to run for office and engage in policy using legislative tools and access to the courts.
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Born in 1862, Catharine is among the second generation of women leaders after Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She attended Northwestern Law School in 1885 and was one of the first 100 women lawyers, who could use her legal skills to advance the cause of political equity and promote social reform.
She became a skilled attorney and strategist in presenting legal arguments for women’s suffrage in Illinois, and for more than 40 years was instrumental in documenting the legislative victories of other states and internationally to form a basis for broad-ranging civic participation for the betterment of society.
She was instrumental in the creation of several important organizations, and was elected as an officer of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, the National Women’s Suffrage Association, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Chicago Women’s Club, and Chicago Political Equity League, the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and the League of Women Voters.
There was significant power-shifting change in Illinois and elsewhere and yet, it took 20 years of dedicated work and incredible persistence before, and 20 years after the 19th amendment was ratified, to overcome resistance to change.
As we learn about Catherine’s efforts and accomplishments, and read her memoirs and articles, plays, and speeches delivered over her lifetime, Catharine’s major initiatives are an example of ground-breaking leadership at a pivotal time in our country’s history.
What is so inspiring however is her intelligence, humor and character - how she could be so influential while working within traditional expectations at the time, of a woman to be a wife, mother, sister and daughter. Catharine met Frank McCulloch at law school and initially she did not want to marry because she was dedicated to suffrage, but throughout her life Frank supported her efforts in her causes. Their work and family life were a true partnership.
Click to watch Katherine Field, great-great-grandaughter of Catharine Waugh McCulloch, commemorate Catharine in the 2020 Rose Parade!