Municipal Housekeeping: Early Women’s Reform Organizations in Dayton, Ohio

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed the long history of women’s prominence in American life.  Women were central, from heading home life to leading and participating in reforms.  But this seems contrary to all we know about women’s role in the “private sphere.”  How were women able to be publicly active? Women were acceptable activists because it was viewed as their moral duty. By leading reforms for “municipal housekeeping” it was seen merely as an expansion of the female sphere.

 As was the model throughout the US, Dayton women organized through churches to address moral reform and do charitable works. The first organization of this kind was formed by Catherine Brown. In 1815 she founded Dayton Female Bible Society.  While ill and bed ridden, she met with other Dayton women in her home and together, these women provided funding and aid for church mission work.

 Through their activism for religious reform work, women saw the success that networking together could achieve.  More organizations were formed, such as Woman’s Home and Foreign Mission Society in 1867.  In 1870, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) was formed by Dayton women to promote charitable causes such as relief for the poor, visiting the sick, and sending supplies to the needy.

 Aside from giving aid to the poor and needy, some women’s organizations were formed to provide aid for working women.  The Young Woman’s League was formed by Marie Jacque Kumler in 1898 to promote “spiritual, moral, mental, and physical welfare” to working women by providing hot lunches, activities and classes, and a dormitory.  Stay tuned, as we will discuss this organization, share photos, and talk more about Marie J. Kumler’s contributions, earning her the nickname “the Mother of the Clubs.”

We want you to be a part of our celebration of women’s history in Dayton! Our book, due out in March, will focus on Women’s Empowerment. Since 2002, we have put over 560,000 books into the hands of children, and we couldn’t do it without your support. Please follow us on Facebook and check out our website!