Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Vadae G. Harvey Meekison 1883-1981
By Spencer Hayes, student, and Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, faculty sponsor, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Lawyer in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio; Member of the Ohio Women's Suffrage Association
Vadae Gwendolyne Harvey was born in West Virginia on October 26, 1883, to Darceno and Alice Harvey. Vadae Harvey studied law at Valparaiso University in Indiana, which was one of the few universities at the time that allowed women to study law, and she joined the Indiana Bar in 1907. While a student, she met George Meekison, and they married on July 4, 1907. He was also a lawyer, and together they had two children, Virginia and David, both of whom became lawyers like their parents. The Meekisons lived in Napoleon near George's family. Vadae Meekison was a member of the Ohio women's suffrage movement. She worked as an attorney, passing the Ohio Bar in 1926.
In 1906, Vadae Harvey used a graduation speech to make a case for women's equality to and independence from men. Her speech was titled "The Law and the Lady," and she argued that women's equality was especially salient for women lawyers. These ideas continued into Meekison's married life. In addition to raising her children and being a wife and mother, she advocated for women and women's rights. She was passionate about knocking down the wall of inequality that women faced to become equals, as well as peers, with men.
Working with the Ohio Woman's Suffrage Association, Vadae Meekison coordinated the local woman suffrage efforts in Napoleon. She also exchanged many letters with the president of the Ohio Woman's Suffrage Association, Harriet Taylor Upton. The correspondence discussed the accomplishments that Meekison and the organization made but also the struggles of the Ohio suffrage efforts between 1912 and 1916. In an early letter, Upton referred to Meekison as "the only live wire" in Napoleon. Meekison traveled across the state discussing and advocating for women's suffrage. She also became friends with Judge Florence Allen, and they campaigned across Ohio together.
In 1918, Napoleon resident Samuel M. Heller stated in his will that when he passed, the city had one year to turn his home into a hospital. When he did eventually pass, the town was divided between people who wanted the hospital and people who felt it too arduous a project. There was also pressure from Heller's wife, who wanted the home to be a summer home for her daughter and son-in-law. Vadae Meekison was a member of the group that believed the town would prosper from the addition of a hospital. She advocated for the Heller Hospital alongside the incumbent mayor, Okee M. Palmer. At the time, when injuries that required surgery occurred, they would take place in the patients' homes or in the county jail, ending in many fatalities, especially for the railroad workers. Meekison advocated for the railroad employees, as they were a vital part of the community and their safety could not be overlooked by the council members. She brought the doctors of the town together and made plans for how the house could operate as a hospital and what changes needed to be made. Right before the year deadline was up, the Heller offer was accepted.
Vadae G. Meekison was a pioneer woman lawyer in Henry County, Ohio. She was a member of the National Association of Women Lawyers and the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also founded the Napoleon chapter of the Red Cross. A versatile woman, she was an early member of the Napoleon Soroptimist Club, which formed in 1921. The club supported women in the workplace and in the household, also providing volunteer opportunities to communities. In 1956, she was the first woman law graduate elected to the Valparaiso Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
Vadae G. Harvey Meekison lived to be 97 years old, dying on August 4, 1981, in Napoleon. She was buried in Glenwood Cemetery with her husband, who predeceased her in 1977.
Finding Aid. Vadae G. Meekison Collection (MS 211). Bolling Green State University Libraries. Accessed September 9, 2019. https://lib.bgsu.edu/finding_aids/items/show/997.
Find a Grave. Vadae G. Meekison. October 13, 2013. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/118728655/vadae-g-meekison.
"George A. Meekison." In Bench and Bar of Northern Ohio: History and Biography, ed. William B. Neff, 557. Cleveland: Historical Publishing, 1921. Google Books.
Harvey, Vadae G. "The Law and the Lady." Speech. Lawyers Banquet, Valparaiso University, June 5, 1906. Vadae G. Meekison Collection (MS 211). Box 1, folder 5. Bolling Green State University Libraries. Finding Aids. https://lib.bgsu.edu/finding_aids/items/show/1909.
"Heller Hospital, A Gift of Samuel M. Heller." Defiance (OH) Crescent-News, March 27, 1969. Henry County, Ohio, Historical Society. Accessed September 9, 2019. https://henrycountyhistory.org/heller-hospital/.
Ohio Woman Suffrage Association Correspondence Regarding 1912 Election (5 letters). Harriet Taylor Upton to Vadae G. Meekison, Warren, OH, 1912. Vadae G. Meekison Collection (MS 211). Box 1, folder 1. Bolling Green State University Libraries. Ohio Memory. https://ohiomemory.org.
Ohio Woman Suffrage Association Correspondence Regarding Placing Suffrage on the Ballot (13 letters). Harriet Taylor Upton to Vadae G. Meekison, Warren, OH, 1913. Vadae G. Meekison Collection (MS 211). Box 1, folder 1. Bolling Green State University Libraries. Ohio Memory. https://ohiomemory.org.
Ohio Woman Suffrage Association Correspondence Regarding Speakers in Henry County (11 letters). Harriet Taylor Upton to Vadae G. Meekison, Warren, OH, 1912-1913. Vadae G. Meekison Collection (MS 211). Box 1, folder 1. Bolling Green State University Libraries. Ohio Memory. https://ohiomemory.org.
United States Census 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, s.v. "Vadae Meekison, Napoleon, Henry, OH." Heritage Quest.
"Valparaiso Law Alumni Meets Saturday." Hammond (IN) Times, July 27, 1956. Newspapers.com.