In Her Own Right Project

“In Her Own Right: Women Asserting Their Civil Rights, 1820-1920” showcases Philadelphia-area collections highlighting women’s struggle leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

In Her Own Right is a pilot project carried out by members of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) and funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Council on Library and Information Resources. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is a primary contributor for the project, and is one of the largest repositories for material related to women's history in the United States.

For more information on the In Her Own Right project, contributing repositories, and digitized material, see the project website.


                         Left to right: Caroline Katzenstein, Mary McDonald, Dora Kelly Lewis, and Anna Howard Shaw.


Deborah Norris Logan (1761-1839) was a Quaker historian and memoirist. She was born into one of the most prominent families of Philadelphia and was married to George Logan in 1781. While primarily self-taught, Deborah attended Philadelphia's Friends Girls School and was considered highly educated. She is best known for the seventeen volumes that make up her diary, which she maintained until her death. The diary provides a window into post-revolutionary America, and highlights the day-to-day happenings of domestic life, as well as social and political developments in North America and Europe. Deborah meticulously logged weather patterns and other natural phenomenon, and recorded interactions with family and friends. She also mused on historical and contemporary events, which includes her experience listening to the first reading of the Declaration of Independence as a young girl. She had close ties with America's elite and foreign diplomats, and her writing chronicles the lives of the most eminent figures of the time, including John Adams, George Washington, and Joseph Bonaparte. As time passed, her diary became an outlet for her emotional distress, especially after the deaths of her husband in 1821 and her son Algernon in 1835. Deborah's role as a "revolutionary mother" was of primary importance to her, and her writing delineates how women viewed their lives and constructed their own identities within a broader social framework.

The Woman Suffrage Party of Logan, previously known as the Logan Suffrage League, was the Germantown branch of the Pennsylvania’s Woman Suffrage Party. Members of the party sponsored the suffrage movement through a panoply of promotional activities, namely by supporting women’s suffrage speeches, organizing open-air meetings, attending state legislature assemblies, and advertising through circulating pamphlets and other public promotional campaigns. The meeting minutes of the Woman Suffrage Party of Logan, which span from 1915 to 1919, disclose underlying executive and financial operations and trace the strategic developments of suffragists in the years leading up to the nineteenth amendment.

Prominent suffragist Jane Campbell established the Woman Suffrage Society of Philadelphia in 1892 and was one of an array of suffrage associations organized at the local level in the Philadelphia area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Society’s meeting minutes reveal developments in promotional activities, which included fundraising events, the distribution of leaflets, petitions, and educational lectures. The minutes also record membership lists and financial statements, and trace the changes in the Society’s organizational structure and composition.

The Magdalen Society of Philadelphia was founded in 1800 by concerned citizens and members of the Quaker, Episcopal, and Presbyterian clergies in order to provide asylum for prostitutes and other “fallen” women. Initially led by William White, then the nation’s highest ranking Episcopal Bishop, the Society believed that by isolating inmates from their former contexts and committing them to strict regimens of prayer and piecework that they would “be instrumental in recovering to honest rank in life those unhappy females, who, in an unguarded hour, have been robbed of their innocence, and sunk into wretchedness and guilt.” To deal with continuous vacancies, the Magdalen Society’s policies changed throughout the nineteenth century. In 1850 the board of managers required inmates to remain in the asylum for a year after arrival, and barred older women from entry as it was believed that younger women would be easier to reform. During Elizabeth Freeberger’s tenure as matron in the years leading up to the twentieth century, the Society became more focused on homeless girls and women instead of prostitutes, and espoused an education-oriented program. Financial difficulties arising from a lack of donations came to a head in the early twentieth century, and in 1914 the city condemned the Magdalen Society home. The Society was officially reorganized in 1918 as the White-Williams Foundation for Girls, today known as the White-Williams Scholars, which provides scholarships to low-income students.

The Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons opened in 1864 by affluent African Americans and white Quakers. The stated objective of the Home was to provide "relief of that worthy class of colored persons, who have endeavored through lifee to maintain themselves, but from various causes are finally dependant on the charity of others." The annual reports detail the Home's constitution and by-laws, meeting minutes, resident information, programs, and financial development.

The Indigent Widows’ and Single Women’s Society was founded in 1817 by Sarah Ralston. It was the first charitable institution in Philadelphia devoted solely to the needs of the elderly. It set out to provide a decent home for middle and upper class women who became economically disadvantaged towards the end of their lives. To meet with increasing demand, the Society changed locations three times throughout its history before ending up on Walnut Street in West Philadelphia. Only women were admitted entrance until the Society merged with the Tilden Home for Aged Couples. In 1973 the Society changed its name to the Ralston House, and remains today a wellness center and administrative building for the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute on Aging and Geriatric Medicine Program.

Dora Kelly Lewis was an ardent supporter of women’s suffrage. She was active in the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) before joining the National Woman’s Party (NWP), where she served as chairman of finance, national treasurer, and head of the ratification committee. Her correspondence to family members details her advocacy and  experiences while campaigning for women's rights.

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