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May Wright Sewall Feminist and Lecturer of Indianapolis

May Wright Sewall championed female rights in Indianapolis during the turn of the twentieth century; she is one of the most influential feminists of her time. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1844, May Wright Sewall always had a mindset above and beyond her peers.

In 1866, she earned a degree from Northwestern Female College. She attained both her bachelors and masters degree in her time at college. In 1872, she met and fell in love with Edwin Thompson. The two married and moved to the Circle City. Tragically, before they had a chance to start a life together, he died only three short years after their wedding.

She kept herself going with the teaching position she acquired at an Indianapolis public school. It did not take long for her to win the hearts and minds of the Indianapolis kids her classroom. Shortly after the death of her first husband, she remarried to Theodore Sewall, the pair opened a Girls Classical School. A place for young women to get prepared for university and beyond, this school was extremely influential to Indianapolis education.

Once May Wright Sewall got going, she was an unstoppable force. She founded a handful of other important Indianapolis nonprofit organizations including the Indianapolis Women’s Club, the Art Association of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Propylaeum. The latter two are still in existence today, a true testament to the accomplishments of Sewall.

In 1878, May Wright Sewall attended a convention in downtown Indianapolis that converged to further the ideas of the Seneca Falls Convention in New York three decades early. Inspired by the “Declaration of Sentiments” enumerated by leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sewall and other formed the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society.

She continued to crusade for peace and equality throughout her life. Eventually she met Susan B. Anthony, and the pair became great friends as they fought together for equal rights for all mankind. She became involved with the American Peace Society, the National of Women, and the International Council of Women. During World War I, she turned up her efforts by espousing brotherhood among all men wherever she went.

On July 22, 1920, just one month before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote, Sewall passed away. Unable to see a culmination of her life’s work in that monumental legislation, Sewall never knew the depth of the impact she made on the world.

The Hoosier state is proud to call her a daughter and Indy is proud to have been mothered by her. Her work for Indianapolis society benefited every aspect of life in the Capitol City of Indiana. Women across the state have May Wright Sewall to thank for their involvement in Indianapolis business, Indianapolis health, Indianapolis media, and every other aspect of life. She truely is one of Indianapolis’ most notable people, and ought to be a hero to every little girl in the Midwest.


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