Biographical Sketch of Mary E. Giltner

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Mary E. Giltner, 1835-1920

By Rachel Wolters, Ph.D., Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College, Bowling Green, Kentucky

Mary E. Giltner, or Mary E. Ogdon Duncan Giltner, was born in Kentucky in 1835 and died there in 1920. Born to John Odgon and Frances Threlkeld, her lineage earned her admission to the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was very active in the woman suffrage movement in the early 20th century, both in Kentucky and at the national level. Her first husband was Joseph Duncan. After his death in 1889, she married Prof. William Spencer Giltner in 1900. Prof. Giltner was a Christian minister and president of Eminence College, the first coeducational institution in Kentucky. After his first wife died and the college closed in 1895, he moved to Covington and became a strong voice for suffrage alongside his new wife. The pair faithfully attended the Kentucky Equal Rights Association annual conventions and Mr. Giltner often offered the invocation.

Many women were first drawn to the cause when the Kentucky legislature authorized school suffrage in 1894 and women began running for school board. This may be the issue that led Mrs. Giltner to become a suffragist. At the very least, it was an issue that she cared deeply about. As representative of the Twentieth Century Club, a local suffrage organization in Covington, Giltner along with Mary Light Ogle and Kate B. Ellis made a newspaper appeal in 1901 asking that women's names be included on the Republican ticket for school board. They pointed out that Lexington women had recently been appointed to the school board and the results were overwhelmingly positive. The writers also made the case that since women were charged with the care of children, it would make sense for them to also serve on school boards.

Mary Giltner became a mainstay for suffrage work in northern Kentucky. At different points, she served as president of the Twentieth Century Club and Treasurer of the Newport ERA. The Twentieth Century Club often held events at the Giltners' home, located at 1554 Madison Avenue.

Mary Giltner's most visible role in the suffrage movement was as the Kentucky State Member of the Executive Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was elected to this position by the Kentucky Equal Rights Association starting in 1903 and continuously for the next eight years. This position allowed Giltner to travel across the country to annual meetings of NAWSA in Portland, Baltimore, Chicago, Buffalo, Louisville, Washington, D.C., and New York. After attending the annual meetings of NAWSA, Giltner would then report on the events at the annual KERA conventions. While most of her yearly reports provided a basic synopsis of the NAWSA meetings, including the different speakers and their topics, once in a while Giltner offered her own insights into events. For example, in 1905 she predicted that Oregon would grant woman suffrage by the following year. In her 1906 report, Giltner emphasized Florence Kelley's discussion of the industrial problems facing women and children, adding that efforts so far to address the issue had been "feeble."

Giltner served as State Member to NAWSA through 1911. After that, KERA began to emphasize rotation of offices. In 1914, she stepped down as president of the Kenton County local. Now entering her eighties, her years of active service were over.

Mary Giltner passed away in March 1920, a year before her husband. She died just weeks after Kentucky ratified the Nineteenth Amendment but too soon to enjoy the rights it bestowed. In her will, Giltner left money to various churches and missions, as well as to her husband and other relatives. She is buried in the Battle Grove cemetery in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Sources:

Advocate-Messenger. "Louisville Kentucky Equal Rights..." Danville, KY: November 22, 1910.

Ancestry.com: Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965 and 1908 Covington, Kentucky City Directory.

Bourbon News. "Mrs. Giltner's Will Probated in Covington." Paris, KY: March 19, 1920.

Courier Journal. "Women's Plea: Desire to Serve on Covington School Board." Louisville, KY: August 15, 1901.

Daughters of the American Revolution. Lineage Book. Volume 15. Washington, D.C.:

Harrisburg Publishing, Co., 1896. https://books.google.com/books?id=ZGDD-nHSEcgC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

"Eminence College," The Kentucky Encyclopedia. John E. Kleber, ed. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.

Kentucky Court of Appeals. "The Kentucky Law Reporter." Vol. 25, Part 2. Frankfort, KY: Geo.

A. Lewis, 1904. https://books.google.com/books?id=AYILAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Thirteenth Annual Convention, Held at Trinity Church." Newport, KY: 1901. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7pk06x0q53?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Fourteenth Annual Convention, Held at Guild Hall, Trinity Episcopal Church, Covington, KY." Newport, KY: 1903. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7jsx647g1g?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Sixteenth Annual Convention, Held at the Spiritual Temple." Newport, KY: 1905. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt798s4jpz60?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Seventeenth Annual Convention, Held at Ashland, KY." Newport, KY: 1906. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt75mk656x54?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Eighteenth Annual Convention, Held at Richmond, KY." Newport, KY: 1907. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt798s4jpz60?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Nineteenth Annual Convention, Held at Richmond, KY." Newport, KY: 1908. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7x3f4kq24n?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky Equal Rights Association. "Minutes of the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Annual Meetings of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Covington, 1910, and Louisville, 1911. Newport, KY: 1911. https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7nk9315j60?f%5Bsource_s%5D%5B%5D=Kentucky+Equal+Rights+Association+minutes+and+reports&per_page=20#page/1/mode/1up

Kentucky State Historical Society. "Only Two Survivors of Class of '53 Meet at Reception to Prof. Giltner" in The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol. 15, No. 45. Frankfort, KY: The State Journal Company, 1917. https://books.google.com/books?id=K3IUAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Proceedings of the Thirty-fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association Held New Orleans, LA, March 15th to 25th, inclusive 1903." New York: American Writing Machine Co., 1903. https://books.google.com/books?id=hH8EAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Minutes of the Thirty-Sixth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association," in The Hand Book of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Annual Convention. 1904. https://books.google.com/books?id=gqMLAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

National American Woman Suffrage Association. "Proceedings of the Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association Held Portland, OR, June 28th to July 5th, inclusive, 1905." Warren, OH: Tribune Company, 1905. https://books.google.com/books?id=ZX8EAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Taylor, Sarah Locklin and Tom Childers. "William Seidner Giltner." July 19, 2008. Find a Grave Memorial. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/28396690/william-seidner-giltner

Wilkerson, Jean. "Mary Ellen Ogdon Giltner." August 13, 2014. Find a Grave Memorial. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/134313603/mary-ellen-giltner

back to top