Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Charlotte Reeve Conover, 1855-1940
By Austin Dunn, undergraduate, Lydia Marino, undergraduate, Kylie Sturgill, undergraduate, and Katharine Marino, faculty sponsor
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Co-founder, Montgomery County Woman's Suffrage Party
Charlotte Reeve Conover was a prominent author, historian, and advocate for women's rights in Dayton, Ohio. She was born in June 1855 in Dayton, Ohio to Dr. John Charles Reeve, a local physician and English immigrant, and Emma Barlow, a native of New York. Conover grew up in Dayton along with her older brother, John Charles Jr., and two younger sisters, Mary and Sidney. Conover attended high school in Dayton, and the Universite de Geneve, in Switzerland, studying writing and teaching. She returned to Dayton where she married her husband, Frank Conover, an attorney, on October 14, 1879, and had four children - Elizabeth, John, Wilbur, and Charlotte.
Literature and education were important to Charlotte Reeve Conover. Conover taught courses in the areas of history, French, current events and literature throughout her life, and was well-known and revered for her lectures on the French playwright, Moliere. In addition to teaching, Conover wrote and worked for various magazines and newspapers, including Ladies' Home Journal, the Woman's Page of the Dayton News, and the Dayton Journal, and published several historical works, such as Some Dayton Saints and Prophets (1907), The Story of Dayton (1917), and Concerning the Forefathers (1902).
Conover co-founded and was president of the Women's Literary Club of Dayton, Ohio in 1889. Conover believed women's clubs helped women express and explore different ideas and cultural questions without being silenced by men. Charlotte Reeve Conover wanted there to be a place in the community where women could gather outside of their "private sphere" to talk about culture and contemporary issues, including women's suffrage, a topic of increasing interest to Ohio club women in these years. In her book Dayton Ohio - An Intimate History, published in 1932, Conover reflected on the significant role women's clubs played in gaining suffrage: "Those who assailed it at the time as a 'fad' now know it as the lever that lifted Dayton women into a new life."
Conover's involvement in the suffragist movement was evident in her writing, public speaking, and organization of women's clubs. She was among the founding leaders of Montgomery County's Woman's Suffrage Party, established June 11, 1912. Conover's daughter, Charlotte Mary, became the field secretary for the Montgomery County Woman's Suffrage Party. The party campaigned in Ohio for the Women's Suffrage Amendment 23 in 1912 and for the 1914 Referendum, both of which failed due to opposition from anti-suffragists and liquor interests. However, Conover never ceased her fight for women's suffrage.
Even after suffrage was gained in 1920, Conover continued to voice her bold opinions on politics and the ballot. Charlotte Reeve Conover was an active member of the National League of Women Voters, founded in 1920 by National American Woman Suffrage Association president Carrie Chapman Catt. Conover became an active member of the Dayton Chapter of the League of Women Voters after its creation in May 1920. Conover also became the editor in chief of the Dayton Daily News, a publication by The Young Women's League informing Dayton women about politics and important events.
After many years focused on suffrage, Charlotte Reeve Conover continued to write and lecture. At the age of 80, Charlotte Conover went blind and wrote, On Being Eighty (1941). Conover maintained her interest in current events and issues up until her death on September 23, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. Conover is buried at the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum. She left a lasting legacy in her town and in Ohio. Charlotte Reeve Conover is an example of a woman who was able to make a difference in the world by advocating for her beliefs.
Information concerning Charlotte Reeve Conover's family and household is included in U. S. Census Bureau (1860), Census of population and housing and U.S. Census Bureau (1900), Census Reports Vol II-Population Part II retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/www/decennial.html.
Information regarding Conover's schooling and family is found in John William Leonard, ed. Woman's Who's Who of America: A biographical directory of contemporary women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, (New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1976), 290, as well as information on her role in the Dayton Women's Literary Club. The Daughters of the American Revolution genealogy site (www.barlowgenealogy.com/Military/dar1-50html) is responsible for the facts regarding Frank Conover and the Conover children. Frank Conover's occupation was found in Williams' Dayton Directory, 1901-1902, (Cincinnati, 1901) 307. The Dayton Daily News published a brief account of Conover's life, career, and friends in the community ("Mrs. Conover is Dead After Long Illness," September 23, 1940:1). Sherri Derringer focuses on Conover's role in the women's clubs with "Women's Campaign for Culture: Women's Clubs and the Formation of Music Institutions in Dayton, Ohio 1888-1933" (Master's Thesis, Wright State University 2007). Conover's historical writing and newspaper publications are mentioned in Memoirs of the Miami Valley (Chicago: Robert O. Law Company, 1919), edited by Charlotte Reeve Conover, John Calvin Hover, and Joseph Daniel Barnes. Information regarding Conover's lectures on Moliere is found in Conover's Dayton, Ohio: An Intimate History, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1932). Charlotte Conover's role in activism for women's suffrage was found in Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters, 1867-1998 (Finding Aid at the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, Dayton, Ohio. http://ead.ohiolink.edu/xtf-ead/view?docId=ead/ODa0007.xml;query=;brand=default)
Much of Conover's suffragist work is described in "Through the Eyes of the Pioneers: Accounts of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Dayton, Ohio (1890-1920)," by Michelle Schweickart (Master's Thesis, Wright State University, 2015). The article, "Women Voters Adopt Program of Citizenship" featured in The Times-Picayune, April 19, 1925:13 was where the information on Conover's preference of the short ballot was located. Lester Riley's interview with Charlotte Reeve Conover offers insights into her life and opinions in "Doorways: A Talk with Charlotte Reeve Conover of Dayton" from The Churchman (1 October 1939.). Charlotte Reeve Conover published several works including On Being Eighty: And Grow Old and Like it, Signposts in the Dark (Yellow Springs, Ohio: Antioch Bookplate Company, 1938) where she details her personal experiences in the community and her dealings with blindness at a later age, Some Dayton Saints and Prophets (Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1907), The Story of Dayton (Dayton: The Greater Dayton Association, 1917) and Concerning the Forefathers (New York: The Winthrop Press, 1902). The date of Charlotte Reeve Conover's death was found in the Dayton, Ohio Obituary Index (https://www.ancestry.com).