Biographical Sketch of Amelia R. Keller

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Amelia R. Keller, 1871–1943

By Linda J. Dunn, retired Information Specialist

Physician and Early activist in the Suffrage movement

Amelia R. Keller was born in Cleveland, Ohio 12 Jan 1871 and died in Indianapolis, Indiana, 28 Jan 1943. Her parents were Frederick Carl Keller and Elizabeth Ruemmele, both of whom were born in Germany. The family moved to Indianapolis when she was a child and she graduated from Shortridge High School. She studied under Dr. W. B. Fletcher and Dr. Mary Spink before attending Women's Medical College in Chicago and earned her medical degree from Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in Indianapolis in 1893. Dr. Keller was President of the Political Equality Society as well as a candidate for the Indianapolis school board in 1903, the same year that her son was born. She was President of the Women's Franchise League of Indiana 1910-1917 and the editor of the suffrage department column in the Citizen, a monthly magazine published by the Citizen's League of Indiana. Under Dr. Keller's guidance, the League grew until it covered the entire state of Indiana with an effective organization comprising a hundred branches under district and county chairmanships and became affiliated with the National Woman's Equal Suffrage Association.

Amelia defied gender limitations from an early age. She was the only girl in her high school class to take woodworking classes and when she married Dr. Eugene Buehler Dec 12, 1899, she retained her maiden name and separate practice. She was one of three female physicians to sign a letter of rebuttal to an Indianapolis Journal Nov. 12, 1900 article alleging women were physically unsuited to some fields of medicine. Dr. Keller founded the Woman's School League and led a successful campaign to elect Mary E. Nicholson as the first female member of the Indianapolis School Board in 1909. During that election, Dr. Keller was a member of the “Ginger Committee,” which organized women to work at the polls for the first time in Indianapolis history. In 1914-1916 she was the first vice president of the Indiana Federated Clubs and chairman of its legislative committee.

In 1917, she and Carrie Chapman Catt made opening speeches to the Franchise League Convention after the passage of the Maston-McKinley Partial Suffrage bill. When this law was overturned in the Indiana Supreme Court, efforts were redirected to a federal amendment at the same time that members were encouraged to support the war effort. Dr. Keller became a member of the “Fourteen-Minute Women” as part of her war work while continuing her suffrage efforts. Immediately after women gained the right to vote, Dr. Keller became an active worker for the Republican party and was president of several women's organizations. She was the first woman faculty member of the IU School of Medicine, a member of the Girl School's board of trustees, and belonged to several organizations committed to improving children's and women's health and working conditions.

 

Jacob Piatt Dunn, Indiana and Indianans, 1855-1924, Volume 4 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1919), p. 1881. Accessible online at https://medicine.iu.edu/blogs/pediatrics/amelia-r-keller-m-d-first-woman-faculty-member-of-indiana-university-school-of-medicine-advocate-and-civic-leader/

SOURCES:

Indiana University School of Medicine Profile by Mary R. Ciccarelli, MD, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Clinical Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine and Associate Chair for Education in Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics. https://medicine.iu.edu/blogs/pediatrics/amelia-r-keller-m-d-first-woman-faculty-member-of-indiana-university-school-of-medicine-advocate-and-civic-leader/

“Art and Manual Training: Exhibit of What the High School and Other Pupils Have Done During The Year,” The Indianapolis Journal, June 14, 1889, p. 8.

“The Political Equality Society Fails To Secure An Endorsement of Mrs. Keller's Candidacy,” The Indianapolis Journal, June 03, 1903, p. 3.

The Indianapolis Star, Oct 12, 1905, p.12.

The Indianapolis Star, Oct 2, 1918, p.4.

The Indianapolis Star, Jan 10, 1919, p. 11.

The Hand Book of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention Held At Atlantic City, N. J. September 4-10 (inclusive) 1916. Edited by Hannah J. Patterson. National American Woman Suffrage Association, 171 Madison Avenue, New York City. Printed by National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, Inc.

The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, published by Indiana University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-253-312222-I. p. 225 and p.1447.

The Indianapolis Star, Nov 03, 1909, p.3.

Indiana and Indianans, 1855-1924, (Volume 4) Jacob Piatt Dunn (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1919), p. 1881.

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