WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH | Grandmother of Macomb resident involved in women’s suffrage movement

By YOLOTZIN FRANCO, NEWS3 Reporter

MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) – Ellen Kane was a suffragette and Jane Coplan’s grandmother. Kane was born in 1898, right before the turn of the century.

During the suffragette movement, Kane and many other women were knocking on doors, handing out information, talking to people, holding events, and writing letters to important people to speak up in support of the 19th amendment.

The 19th amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920 and gave women the right to vote.

Kane got engaged to her sweetheart, the boy across the street. Her fiance went to France to fight in World War I, and she stayed behind working. Kane had to keep her engagement a secret. During that time society disapproved of engaged and married women working.

“She wore her ring on a chain inside her dress or a blouse so that people wouldn’t know that she was engaged so that she could keep her job,” Coplan said.

November of 1920 was the first time women could vote in a national election. Kane wasn’t alone for that special moment. She had her daughter with her.

“She was pregnant with my mother,” Coplan said. “My mom used to like to tell people that she was there the first time women voted.”

Kane was a fairly unusual woman in her generation.

“They used to wear pants to school under their dresses,” Coplan said. “My grandmother was just not real hung up on the gender-role thing”

Kane encouraged her daughters to go beyond the traditional role of a woman. Coplan’s mother, Mary Ellickson, knew how to do mechanical things, like rewiring lamps.

Kane died in 1963.

“I wished I had known her more as an adult so I could’ve unpacked some of that,” Coplan said.

Women fighting for the right to vote over 100 years ago opened doors for other women. Today, Coplan serves as the president of The League of Women Voters in McDonough County.

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