Biographical Sketch of Laura Jane Kregelo

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920

Biography of Laura Jane Kregelo, 1844-1929

By Elena Rippel, Public Historian, Brookline, MA

Suffragist and Club Woman

Laura Jane Kregelo née McCune was born in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, in 1844. She was descended from a lineage of Scotch Presbyterians. As a child, she was an invalid and was schooled at home by her mother. In 1866 she married Charles E. Kregelo, an undertaker, and settled in Indianapolis. She continued to live in Indiana for the rest of her life except for a five-year stay in Los Angeles in the 1890s.

Kregelo was an early suffragist in the city of Indianapolis. She appears to have been involved with the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society soon after its founding in 1878; however, it is unclear whether she was one of its founding members. By 1881, Kregelo was part of efforts to lobby state legislators to extend suffrage to Hoosier women, although the effort ultimately did not come to fruition. Three years later she was elected president of the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society and she remained involved with the suffrage cause over the following decades.

In 1912, she was a member of the Equal Suffrage Society when it became officially incorporated. As suffrage activism grew throughout that decade, Kregelo told a journalist that, ‘The growing strength of the equal suffrage movement has forced it as an important issue in the next presidential campaign" and expressed optimism about its effect.

Laura Kregelo's involvement with the suffrage movement placed her in the social circle of some of the leading women of the city, including suffragists May Wright Sewall, Zerelda Wallace, and Cornelia Fairbanks. It also meant that she had the prominence to receive visitors to her home such as Julia Ward Howe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

Along with her work in suffrage organizations, Kregelo could be referred to as a "club woman," as she was dedicated to many women's clubs around the city. She was an active leader in the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, and took part in Daughters of the Union, the Indianapolis Free Kindergarten society, the Indianapolis Council of Women, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Pioneer Society, and the Flower Mission, whose members assisted the city's sick and poor. With the D.A.R., she led an effort to create a memorial to the pioneer women of Indiana. In a letter, she wrote that "Up to the present time no recognition in the shape of a public memorial has been given to the pioneer women, who did as much in the way of work and endurance and sacrifice as the men who were their fathers and husbands and sons to lay the foundations of this commonwealth of Indiana." Her viewpoint on the value of female labor likely intertwined with her views on suffrage.

Concurrently with her public work, Kregelo also experienced personal tragedies. Her son died at age two, and she lost her two daughters later in life—one who was a newlywed and the other a mother. Her husband also passed away in 1905 and she lost a brother to naval service. Kregelo spent time devoted to her grandchildren and traveled back and forth between Indianapolis and their home in California. According to a newspaper article she also raised foster children.

During World War One, Laura Kregelo offered her services to Fort Benjamin Harrison. She spent much time visiting the infirmary, comforting and corresponding with the men there. She created the Good Service Club and hosted entertainment programs for local soldiers and sailors at her home. She reflected that the loss of her son and brother motivated her to help these men. The soldiers called her the "Little Mother of the Regiment," and after the war she often continued the relationships she had built. Kregelo later compiled her correspondence and reminisces in a book she called My Boys: The Story of My War Work.

Laura Kregelo passed away on October 7, 1929.

Sources

Anthony, Maude Swift. "Wellknown Indianapolis Women: Mrs. Charles E. Kregelo." Indianapolis Star, January 7, 1923

"D.A.R. Asks aid for Pioneer Women Statue." Indianapolis News, April 8, 1916

Dunn, Jacob Piatt. Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes, vol 2. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1910.

"Equal Suffragists Happy." Indianapolis News, October 17, 1911

Gabin, Nancy E. "Women." In The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, ed. By David J. Bodenhamer et. al., 218-228. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

"Joy Expressed by Suffragists." Indianapolis Star, June 15, 1914

"Mrs. Charles Kregelo, Known for War Work, Civic Activities, Dies." Indianapolis Star, October 8, 1929

"Mrs. Charles E. Kregelo." Indianapolis Star, October 9, 1929

"Pioneer Suffragists of Indianapolis to be Honor Guests at Public Reception." Indianapolis News, June 21, 1919

"The Equal Suffrage Fete." The Inter Ocean (Chicago), April 30, 1881

"The Equal Suffrage Society." Indianapolis News, June 3, 1884

Zeigler, Connie J. "Women's Rights and Suffrage." In The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, ed. By David J. Bodenhamer et. al., 1445-1448. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Photos available in following newspaper articles:

Anthony, Maude Swift. "Wellknown Indianapolis Women: Mrs. Charles E. Kregelo." Indianapolis Star, January 7, 1923

"Pioneer Suffragists of Indianapolis to be Honor Guests at Public Reception." Indianapolis News, June 21, 1919

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