Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Antoinette Dakin Leach, 1859-1922
By Doris Gardner, student
Harry S Truman College-City Colleges of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Antoinette Dakin Brighton Leach was born April 3, 1859, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Lydia F. and Henry Dakin. Her father died suddenly a few months after her birth. When Lydia Dakin remarried, Antoinette Dakin was adopted by her mother's new husband, Thomas Brighton. Lydia Brighton was recorded in the 1880 census as being a book agent, a notable occupation for a women at that time. At the age of 20, Antoinette Brighton married George Washington Leach on May 5, 1879. She had a daughter, Hortense Euginia Leach, born February 1, 1880, and she had a son, George Washington Leach, Jr., born December 22, 1882. Antoinette and George Leach were married for forty years until his death from Bright's disease on December 27, 1919. She never remarried after her husband's death. In the 1920 census, Leach was listed as married but living alone in Sullivan. Shortly after, she moved to Upstate New York to live with her daughter. Leach died on June 11, 1922, in McDonough, New York; she was later buried in Sullivan, Indiana.
Antoinette Dakin Leach earned a law degree in 1884 from the University of Tennessee College of Law. She applied to the Green County Bar in February 1893 but was denied. Although she graduated and earned her law degree, she was unable to practice law because she was not a voter. Leach, along with her lawyers, challenged the denial, and in June 1893, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned their ruling and said that women could practice law in the state of Indiana. Leach was admitted to the Sullivan County Bar that same month. Despite having a license, she was not admitted into the Indiana State Bar Association until 1910, and she was the first female lawyer accepted. Indiana has since adopted an award named the Antoinette Dakin Leach Award. The award is given out to successful women attorneys in the state of Indiana. Antoinette Dakin Leach was a creative woman, who introduced shorthand and stenography to the people of Sullivan and to the courtrooms.
In the late nineteenth century, Antoinette Dakin Leach began her suffrage activity. In 1889, she established a prominent suffrage club in Sullivan, Indiana, which was open to all suffrage advocates. In 1909, she served as the state organizer for National American Women Suffrage Association of Indiana. The next year, she became a member of the Progressive Party led by Theodore Roosevelt because he was an advocate for equal suffrage and women's rights. In 1911, she drafted an amendment to the Indiana Constitution to remove the word "male," a resolution that made it through committee before being shelved due to the call to constitutional convention. Leach ran for State Representative for the Equal Suffrage Party and gave a compelling speech, although she did not win. Her suffrage activity continued as she edited the Equal Suffrage Association of Indiana's official organ, the Woman Citizen, for two years.
To date there are a limited number of Antoinette Dakin Leach's writings, largely due to a house fire that destroyed her home in the earlier years. The speech that she gave when she ran for State Representative is one of her writings that still exists. Antoinette Dakin Leach was a pioneer woman, opening the door to women practicing law in the state of Indiana as well as advocating for women's equal rights.
Find a Grave. Antoinette Dakin Leach (1859-1922). Accessed February 6, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/52951370/antoinette-dakin-leach
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. "Indiana." Chapter XIII in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Shields, Vivian Sue, and Suzanne Melanie Buchko. "Antioinette Dakin Leach: A Woman Before the Bar." The Valparaiso University Law Review, vol. 28, no. 4, 1994, pp. 1189-1230, https://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol28/iss4/3/.
United States Census 1880, s.v. "Lydia F. Brighton." Ancestry.com.
United States Census 1920, s.v. "Antoinette D Leach." Ancestry.com.