Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Katharine Wright (Haskell), 1874-1929
By Sherri Goudy, Historian, Ohio History Service Corps, Columbus, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio Suffrage Association member; march planner and participant; provided meeting space
Katharine Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio on August 19, 1874 to Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Koerner Wright. She is the sister of the famous Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, as well as having 2 other brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin Wright. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Katharine was just 15 years old, forcing her into the role of woman of the household, running the home and overseeing the family's care. This was a role which she felt obligated to maintain throughout her life, especially to Orville, after her father and brother Wilbur died. This is significant because it partly defined Katharine's choice to remain unmarried until very late in her life. Wright graduated from Oberlin College in 1898 with a degree in teaching. She was the only Wright child to earn a degree. She became a teacher at Steele High School in Dayton but resigned from that position in 1909 to help Wilbur and Orville with marketing their newly invented airplane. Later in life she was offered the position to serve on the Board of Trustees at Oberlin College, which she accepted. This is when she became close to Henry “Harry” Haskell, who would become her husband in 1926, when she was 52 years old. Orville refused to attend the wedding and did not see her again until she was on her deathbed three years later. Katharine Wright died on March 3, 1929 of complications related to pneumonia. She is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.
Katharine Wright's involvement with the suffrage movement is well documented in her father's diary and letters to friends and Harry. As early as 1912, when amendments to Ohio's constitution to allow women to vote were being introduced more and more regularly, her father wrote about his daughter attending suffrage meetings at the Victoria Theater in Dayton. She also allowed the reservation of a meeting room on their property to the Women's Suffrage Association in Dayton to hold their regular meetings. On October 24, 1914, Dayton had a Women's Suffrage March and Bishop Milton Wright as well as Orville marched alongside Katharine in support of it. Wright was involved in the planning of this parade, attending meetings, luncheons, and a speech by Carrie Chapman Catt to prepare for it. The Dayton newspaper quoted her as saying “If it is the last thing I ever do. I will march in the suffrage parade.”
Katharine Wright was a champion for women's rights and activities in Dayton. She served as President of the Young Women's League for two years and was also a member of the Dayton Women's Club. She made financial contributions to the League of Women Voters and attended meetings as well. Her letters to her husband Harry are the most telling of her feelings about women's rights and why she participated in such a vast array of organizations for women. Wright wrote in November 1924, “I get all ‘het up' over living forever in a ‘man's world'... but I know that already having the vote has done a lot toward making men take us seriously.”
Letter from Katharine Wright, President of the Young Women's League, Dayton Chapter to Mrs. Davisson, President of the Woman's Suffrage Association of Dayton, Ohio. 3 March 1915. MS-004 Woman's Suffrage Association and League of Women Voters, 1867-1998. Dayton Room, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. 22 March 2018.
Schweickart, Michelle. Through the Eyes of Pioneers: Accounts of the Women's Suffrage Movement in Dayton, Ohio (1890-1920). (Master's thesis). Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. 2015.
“Suffragists Make Creditable Display.” 24 October 1914. Dayton Daily News. MS-458 Dayton Daily News Archives, 1890-2004. Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. 31 May 2018.
Wright, Bishop Milton. Diaries 1857-1917. Wright State University Libraries. 1999.
Wright, Katharine. Letter to Henry Haskell. 11 November 1924. Reel 1. MFM-117 Katharine Wright Haskell Papers, 1922-1928. Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio. 31 May 2018.