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Zerelda Gray Wallace 1817 ~ 1901


A self-made woman in every sense of the word, was Mrs. Zerelda Gray Wallace, reformer and suffragist. She was born in Millersburg, Bourbon County, Kentucky, August 6, 1817, the daughter of John H. Sanders and Mrs. Polly C Gray Sanders. Her father was of South Carolina descent and her mother was of the Singleton family. She was the oldest of five daughters and received as good an education as could be had in the Blue Grass region schools of those early days. At a sale of public lands in Indianapolis, then the frontier, her father purchased his homestead and after leaving Kentucky his daughters had only limited opportunities for education. Mrs. Wallace, however, assisted her father in his practice and became interested in medicine. She educated herself by reading works on hygiene, mental philosophy and other subjects, and was acquainted with many prominent men. In 1837 she became the wife of Honorable David Wallace, soldier and jurist and then lieutenant-governor of Indiana. In 1837 he was elected governor of the state and in 1840 he went to Congress as a Whig. During his term Mrs. Wallace spent some time in Washington with him, ever urging him to vote against the Fugitive Slave Law, and she shared all his reading in law, politics and literature. At the time she married, Mr. Wallace was a widower with a family of three sons, and six children were born to them. This large family Mrs. Wallace reared, carefully cultivating their particular talents and developing all their powers in every way.

All her living children have succeeded in life. Her husband's children by the first wife included General Lewis Wallace, the soldier, scholar, statesman and author of the immortal "Ben Hur' and General Wallace never referred to her as "stepmother,'' but always as mother. She was one of the first of the women crusaders, and joined the Women's Christian Temperance Union, in which she did much valuable service. She spoke before the Temperance legislature in advocacy of temperance, and was soon after lecturing before them in favor of women's suffrage. As delegate to temperance conventions she addressed large audiences in Boston, Saratoga Springs, St Louis, Detroit, Washington, Philadelphia and other cities. She lived to a splendid old age, her physical and intellectual powers unimpaired, and recently died in Indianapolis surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

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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