Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

May Wright Sewall 1844 ~ 1920

 


May Wright Sewall

Mrs. May Wright Sewall's life work has been founded on the conviction that all avenues of culture and usefulness should be opened to women, and that when that result is obtained the law of natural selection may safely be trusted to draw women to those employments, and only those to which they are best fitted. This is the theory she has striven to propagate in her educational work as well as on the suffrage platform. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 27, 1844, she is descended on both sides from old New England stock and her father. Philander Wright, was one of the early settlers of Milwaukee.

Miss Wright entered the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and was graduated in 1866. She received the Master's Degree in 1871. After an experience of some years in the common schools of Michigan she accepted the position of principal of the Plainwell High School and later was principal of the High School in Franklin, Indiana. From that position she was called to the Indianapolis High School as teacher of German, and subsequently engaged to work in English literature. That was in the year 1874, and since that date she has resided in Indianapolis. In 1880 she resigned her position in the Indianapolis High School, receiving the unprecedented compliment of a special vote of thanks for her conspicuous and successful work.

In October of the same year she became the wife of Theodore L. Sewall and Mr. and Mrs. Sewall opened a classical school for girls making the course identical with the requirements of the Harvard entrance examinations, A private school for girls, which made Latin, Greek and mathematics through trigonometry a part of its regular course, was then a novelty in the West, but the immediate success of this girls school showed that the public was quick to appreciate thorough work in the education of girls. This school established by Mr. and Mrs. Sewall now has an annual enrollment of several hundred pupils. In spite of all her public work for suffrage and civic welfare Mrs. Sewall continues to give much time to the details of supervising her school. The girls in the school are taught to dress plainly and comfortably, to which end they wear a school uniform, and above all they are encouraged to believe that all departments of knowledge are worthy of their attention and of right ought to be open to them.

About the 'time of her removal to Indianapolis, Mrs. Sewall became prominent in various lines of women's work. She soon became known as a lecturer and as a delegate to conventions called to the interest of higher education of women and the promotion of the cause of women's equality before the law. She edited for two years a women's column in the Indianapolis Times, and she has written largely in the line of newspaper correspondence. She is the author of the Indiana chapter in the "History of Women's Suffrage," edited by Miss Anthony, Mrs. Stanton and Mrs. Gage, and of the "Report on Women's Industries in Indiana," "Work of Women in Education in the Western States" and of many slighter essays. Her first public appearance in the reform work outside of local letters was as a delegate from the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society to the Jubilee Convention in Rochester, New York, in 1878. Since that time she has been one of the mainstays of the cause of women's advancement and has enjoyed the fullest confidence and unqualified support of its leaders. She has delivered addresses before most of the suffrage organizations all over the country and also before committees of the Indiana legislature, committees of the United States Senate, and the National Teachers' Association.

In 1889 Mrs. Sewall was the delegate from the National Women's Suffrage Association and from the Women's National Council of the United States to the International Congress of Women assembled in Paris by the French Government in connection with the Exposition Universally. In that congress she responded for America when the roll of nations was called and later in the session gave one of the principal addresses, her subject being; The National Women's Council of the United States." Her response for America, which was delivered in French, was highly praised for its aptness and eloquence, by M. Jules Simon, who presided over the session.

Mrs. Sewall's writings and addresses are characterized by directness, simplicity and strength. Her extemporaneous addresses are marked by the same closeness of reasoning, clearness, and power as her written speeches and they display a never-failing tact. She is conspicuously successful also as a presiding officer, a position in which she has had a long and varied experience.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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