Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emily B. Ketcham, 1839-1907
By Clara Sodon, Student, Saint Martin's University, Lacey, WA
Emily Burton Ketcham was born July 16, 1839 to Josiah and Elizabeth Burton. Mrs. Ketcham was educated in the public schools of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She furthered her education at Henrietta Academy in New York and Mary B. Allen's School for Girls in Rochester, N. Y. She later went back to Grand Rapids to earn her teaching degree from Saint Mark's College. She started her career as a school teacher at age 15. Emily married Smith G Ketcham in 1866 and they had one child together. Ketcham became avid in her work for suffrage in 1873, advocating for equal suffrage in the original campaign to remove gender as a qualification for voting in the state of Michigan.
During Ketcham's 30 years advocating for women's suffrage she was a member of and held several leadership positions in a variety of suffrage organizations. These organizations included the Grand Rapids Women's Suffrage Association, the Political Equality Club, the Women's Civic League, and the Woman's and Children's Protective League.
In 1892, Ketcham was elected president of the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association. On June 29, 1892 she wrote a letter to the honorable JB Foraker as president of Michigan Equal Suffrage Association in response to the Republican Party platform adopted June 10, 1892. Her letter and Foraker's response were published in The Farmer's Wife on August 1, 1892. At the end of the article Emily adds "Goad the women to resent this insult and cause the letter to be spread which tells the women what they are not. Let this arrogant party know what they are in this coming campaign" (Foraker's). Emily's fiery rhetoric stands as a testament to her passion and dedication to the cause. At the end of her year as president of Michigan Equal Suffrage Association Emily spoke, by special invitation, at the Chicago World's fair. Her speech, "Are Women Citizens and People?" referenced her correspondence with Hon. J.B. Foraker and contended with similar ferocity: "'A government by the people, of the people and for the people,' which holds women as people and citizens, to bear its burdens, to be punished by its laws, but excluded from its privileges and immunities, is a government of robbery and usurpation" (Ockerbloom).
Ketcham continued to lead the suffrage movement in Grand Rapids and beyond, addressing the congressional judiciary committee in 1894. At the Women's Suffrage Convention in Saginaw on May 9, 1895, she was elected treasurer. In recognition of Ketcham's leadership ability and organizational prowess, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony brought the 1899 NAWSA convention to Grand Rapids, where Ketcham served as president from 1899 to 1902. The same year as the Convention met in Grand Rapids, Ketcham served as the president of the Susan B. Anthony Club.
At the First International Woman Suffrage Conference and the 34th annual NAWSA convention, Emily sat on a panel for "An Evening with Pioneers" though she was no longer president of Michigan NAWSA.
After 30 years of working for suffrage, Emily Burton Ketcham died January 12, 1907. Just over a decade after her death, Michigan approved women's suffrage and in 1920 the ratification of the 19th amendment gave women the vote nationwide. The leadership and organizational ability of Ms. Emily Ketcham played a monumental role in shaping the Michigan women's suffrage movement. In recognition of Emily Burton Ketcham's fidelity to the cause, she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1999.
Closing of Convention of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids Morning Democrat, Grand Rapids, Michigan, May 4, 1899. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001465/.
First International Woman Suffrage Conference and the 34th Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Washington, D. C. February 12-18, 1902. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001399/.
"Foraker's Views." The Farmer's Wife, 1 Aug. 1892, pp 1. https://www.newspapers.com/image/477547090/?terms=Emily+Ketcham.
"Michigan Equal Suffrage Association." Detroit Free Press, 30 Oct. 1902, pp 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/118286380/?terms=Emily+Ketcham.
National American Woman Suffrage Association. Thirty-First Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. April 27-May 3, 1899. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001344/.
National American Woman Suffrage Association Thirty Third Annual Convention, Minneapolis, Minnesota. May 30-June 5, 1901. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001391/.
National American Woman Suffrage Association. Thirty-First Annual Convention of the National American Woman's Association-will be held in Grand Rapids. ante, 1899. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001345/.
Ockerbloom, Mary Mark. "Are Women Citizens and People?" A Celebration of Women Writers, http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/eagle/congress/ketcham.html.
"President With Them." Port Huron Daily Times, 1 Nov. 1902, pp 2. https://www.newspapers.com/image/323284091/?terms=Emily+Ketcham.
"School Teacher and Suffragist Emily Burton Ketcham." Chalkboard Champions, 5 Sept. 2019, http://chalkboardchampions.org/education/school-teacher-and-suffragist-emily-burton-ketcham/.
"Was Very Successful." The Detroit Free Press, 10 May 1895, pp 4. https://www.newspapers.com/image/119585204/?terms=Emily+Ketcham.
"Wayne." Death Records, 1897-1920,