Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Emma Magdalena Gunkel, 1864-1899

By Julie Ashton, MA Public History, and Cassandra Hurst, MA Public History, Northern Kentucky University

Campbell County Equal Rights Association; Nominee for the Board of Education for the Third Ward (Newport, Kentucky); Susan B. Anthony Club

Dr. Emma Magdalena Gunkel was born on February 8, 1864 in Newport, Kentucky. Emma was the fourth of six children born to Dr. Henry Christian Gunkel (also known as Heinrich C. Gunkel) and Catherine Gunkel (nee Weber). She attended medical school at the Eclectic Medical Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduating in 1885 with a degree in Eclectic Medicine. Emma never married. She joined her father and her brother in their medical practice.

In November 1892, Dr. Emma Gunkel, along with several other women, was asked to represent the Campbell County Equal Rights Association as a delegate to the State Convention held on November 9, 1892 in Richmond, Kentucky. Three years later, in October 1895, Emma was nominated by the Democratic City Executive Committee to run for the Board of Education for the Third Ward in Campbell County, Kentucky. Unfortunately, she was not elected, as the election was marred by a voter fraud scandal.

Between 1895 and up until her death in 1899, several newspaper articles cited her continued involvement in the suffrage movement through participation in a local organization known as the Susan B. Anthony Club. At the April 9, 1899 meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Club, Emma extolled the virtue and perseverance of women such as Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Emma spoke of the difficulties and hardships which Dr. Blackwell had to endure in order to obtain her medical education, ultimately paving the way to help further the cause of women's equality.

On May 24, 1899, Dr. Gunkel was found dead in her home in Newport, Kentucky. At the time of her death, allegations of suicide circulated throughout her community, but these accusations were squelched upon the release of the coroner's report. Dr. M. Higgins determined her cause of death to be the result of apoplexy, stating that, "...there is no ground for the suspicion of suicide."


"Calling on the Ladies," Cincinnati Enquirer, October 11, 1895.

Felter, Harvey Wickes. History of the Eclectic Medical Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1845-1902. Including the Worthington Medical College (1830-1842), the Reformed Medical School of Cincinnati (1842-1845), and the Eclectic College of Medicine (1856-1859), with biographical sketches of members of various faculties and lists of graduated arranged alphabetically and by classes. Ohio: H.W. Felter, M.D., John K. Scudder, M.D., and J.U. Lloyd, PHR. M. Committee, 1902.

"Newport," Cincinnati Enquirer, November 6, 1892, 7.

"Newport: Not Suicide," Cincinnati Enquirer, June 8, 1899, 8.

"Women's Clubs," Cincinnati Enquirer, April 9, 1899.

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