Follow the purple arrows on the signs as you walk
Betsey Mix Cowles graduated from Ohio’s progressive Oberlin College, which admitted women from its founding in 1833 and Blacks just two years later.
She taught with the first staff of Massillon’s first public school, beginning in 1848.
Miss Cowles was an ardent Abolitionist, and, in fact, she left Massillon to teach in Canton when an African American student was banned from the Union School. Ohio law at that time said that if one parent objected, no Black children could attend the school.
From Canton she moved on to Painesville, Ohio, where she was the school superintendent. When she began to lose her eyesight, she was replaced by a male superintendent, who earned twice her salary.
Miss Cowles was active in the Women’s Suffrage movement from the time she was in Massillon. She attended Ohio’s first women’s suffrage convention and in 1852 presided over a suffrage meeting in Massillon. Although the written records of that meeting are yet to be recovered, oral histories report that John Campbell slipped into the back of the hall to hear what the women had to say. He was so influenced by the message Miss Cowles delivered that when he was governor of the Wyoming Territory, he supported the territory’s women and their right to vote, allowing them to become the first females in the nation to do so.
Directions: Continue north (straight ahead) for two blocks on Sixth Street until you reach Harvard Avenue. Turn left and proceed two blocks to Fourth Street. Turn left, but stop immediately to look at the cream-colored stucco 1860s house across the street, on the southwest corner of Harvard and Fourth.