Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Dora Sandoe Bachman, 1869-1930
By Natalie Cizek, undergraduate, Erika Shane, undergraduate, Deborah Makari, undergraduate, Katherine Marino, faculty sponsor
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
Vice President, Ohio Woman Suffrage Association; Advisory Board, Congressional Union
Dora Sandoe Bachman was born on October 6, 1869 in Tiffin, Ohio to Minister Henry Harrison Sandoe and Eliza M. (Barton) Sandoe. She had one younger brother, Dee Sandoe, who was born in 1882. Early in her childhood, her family moved to Columbus, Ohio where she spent most of her life. She married lawyer Jacob Bachman in 1895 and they had two sons, Richard and Robert.
Bachman was a pioneer in educational and professional spheres. She was the first woman to graduate from Ohio State University's College of Law. After being admitted to the bar in 1892, she went on to establish the law practice of Bachman & Bachman with her husband in Columbus around 1895. Much of her work focused on laws affecting women and children, particularly the citizenship status and economic position of women.
In 1910, she became the first woman to be elected to the Columbus School Board of Education, a position she held until 1917. She ran for this position with assistance from local suffrage groups to demonstrate the importance and necessity of women in positions of power and the need for change in the conservative city. In 1920, Bachman became the first woman to run for common pleas judge in the Ohio court system. She believed women should be able to serve on juries as equal counterparts to men because they provide alternative perspectives that are just as important as men's. She lost the race but continued voicing such opinions.
Her primary suffrage work focused on the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association (OWSA) of which she became the Vice President. She drafted the woman's suffrage proposal included in the 1912 Ohio suffrage referendum which galvanized large lobbying efforts. When the 1912 referendum was defeated, she continued her involvement with the 1914 suffrage referendum, a similar campaign which Franklin County suffragists spearheaded to enfranchise women. In an attempt to gain backing from the Democratic and Republican parties for its passing, Bachman participated in the OWSA strategy of writing personal letters to political officials. She notified many of their chance to increase their party's voter base by one million votes if they supported women's suffrage. She acted as a liaison, or spokeswoman, between the association and each political party, expressing the OWSA's thoughts and resolutions to office holders. Despite their efforts, the referendum was defeated.
Bachman's street speaking and oratory skills also influenced the movement. She claimed that public speaking was "the most effective way suffragists have to reach voters" and took advantage of an Emancipation Day gathering in Columbus in 1914 to give a speech on women's suffrage. At the national level, Bachman and numerous other Ohio women participated in the suffrage parade and demonstration in Washington D.C. in 1913. In 1915, Alice Paul travelled to Columbus to recruit Bachman to be on her Advisory Counsel in Paul's newly formed Congressional Union.
In the years following her work on the School Board of Education and after women gained national suffrage in 1920, Bachman headed the Social Hygiene Committee around 1922. This group advocated increased sexual education and improved reproductive health. Although these subjects were taboo at the time, Bachman recognized them as important topics in need of discussion.
Dora Sandoe Bachman passed away on January 1, 1930, just ten years after the national women's suffrage amendment was passed and is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. Throughout her life, Bachman demonstrated great passion and boldness in pursuit of social justice and political participation. She was strong-willed and stood by her opinions and values striving for change in numerous domains.
Information about Dora Sandoe Bachman's birth, death, education, and family are found at www.ancestry.com, specifically in the 1910 and 1920 Federal Census and voter lists. Specific details about Bachman's death and place of burial can be found at https://www.findagrave.com/. Information about her election and involvement in the Columbus Board of Education are found in "Women Did Vote and Were Elected to the School Board of Ohio," The Daily Oklahoman, January 19, 1910:12 and in "A Woman on the Columbus School Board," Kansas City Star, November 8, 1909:6. Detailed descriptions of her law career and practice are found in Selma Klein George's "Sisters in Law," Lawyer and Banker and Southern Bench and Bar Review 6:6 (1913) 369-374, as well as in "Has Faith in Juries Made Up Of Women, Matron Who Would be Judge Says," Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 5, 1920:7A and in H.C. Ramsower's Ohio State University College of Agriculture Extension Service Circular, volume 7-10 from 1921-22. Details about Bachman's suffrage activities are found in "Oppose 1915 Vote on Ohio Suffrage - Women Delegates to State Convention do not Urge Early Campaign. . .", Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 4, 1914:13, "Editors Dine and Talk: State Senator Warren G. Harding, Candidate for U.S. Senator," Cleveland Gazette, September 26, 1914:1 and Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper, History of Woman Suffrage. (New York: 1881) and finally in Jessica Rae Pliley, "A Kick is Sometimes a Boost: The 1914 Woman Suffrage Campaign in Franklin County, Ohio" (Master of Arts Thesis, The Ohio State University, 2006).