Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emma Rachel Griffin Van Hook Hughes, 1856- 1933
By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, Associate Professor of English, Texarkana College, Texarkana, TX
Founder, National Roosevelt Memorial Association; Ohio State Chairman, National Woman's Party; Vice President, Ohio Woman's Taxpayers' League; Member, Columbus Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution; Member, Advisory Campaign Committee, Ohio Woman Suffrage Association; Member, Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society; Member, Ohio Women's Republican Club
The daughter of Edward Burns Griffin, a Methodist minister, and Narcissa Young Griffin, Emma Rachel Griffin was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania in 1856. Her siblings included sisters Anna, Mary, Caroline, and Narcissa, and brother Thomas.
Rachel, as she was known, married Albert Gallatin Van Hook in 1874. The couple settled in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, where Albert worked as a glass cutter. They had two children, Leonidas Hamlin Rheeves "Leon," born in 1875, and Laura Conklin, born in 1876. Sometime before December of 1895, Rachel and Albert divorced and Rachel married Ivor Hughes, a Welsh immigrant and Columbus, Ohio attorney, in Stark, Ohio. The couple lived in Columbus with Rachel's two children, and Rachel dabbled in work as an insurance salesperson. Her parents joined Rachel in Ohio, as well.
In 1911, Rachel was elected to Ohio Woman Suffrage Association's Advisory Campaign Committee. The next year, she joined the newly formed Ohio Women's Taxpayers' League and registered as a lobbyist in the interest of woman suffrage. She was later elected that organization's Vice President. Legend has it that Rachel entertained Emmeline Pankhurst on one of Pankhurst's tours of the United States, though there is no surviving documentation to confirm this.
Rachel's activism continued into the 1920s. She joined the National Woman's Party and was elected chairman of the organization's Ohio chapter. In 1924, she wrote a letter encouraging women to write their congressional representatives in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
In addition to her suffrage activities, Rachel maintained close personal friendships with Anna Roosevelt and Ida Saxon McKinley, wife of President William McKinley. She founded the National Roosevelt Memorial Association, which established a monument to President Theodore Roosevelt in Oyster Bay, New York in 1928.
When Rachel Hughes died in 1933, her obituary lauding her as an "ardent woman suffragist" was published in newspapers as far away as Brooklyn, New York. She is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.
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"Columbus Women Show Their Interest in Woman Suffrage in Practical Ways." The Tribune [Coshocton, Ohio] 17 February 1912. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/321070835/?terms=mrs.%20ivor%20hughes%20suffrage&match=1
Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/70815484/rachel-emma-hughes : accessed 19 July 2021), memorial page for Rachel Emma Griffin Hughes (5 Jul 1856-13 Aug 1933), Find a Grave Memorial ID 70815484, citing Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Dave Davisson (contributor 36744121).
Hensley, Frances Sizemore. Change and Continuity in the American Women's Movement, 1848-1930: A National and State Perspective. 1981. The Ohio State University, PhD dissertation. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/apexprod/rws_etd/send_file/send?accession=osu1487170967633886&disposition=inline
"Mrs. Rachel Hughes." Times Union [Brooklyn, NY] 15 August 1933. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/576142224/?article=c7ecb44f-b064-4075-9749-96aa79df530b&focus=0.26785156,0.73903435,0.38563552,0.86855155&xid=3355&_ga=2.237196423.663965853.1626716587-277744048.1622824811
Obituary for Rachel Hughes. Dayton Daily News 14 August 1933. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/400723037/?article=5c492d92-f071-4a24-bc86-ad9f2a812e2a&focus=0.039487112,0.6099979,0.16087641,0.66280085&xid=3355&_ga=2.262829323.663965853.1626716587-277744048.1622824811
"Suffrage Leaders Here for Convention." The Dayton Herald 13 October 1911. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/392857317/?terms=mrs.%20ivor%20hughes%20suffrage&match=1
Upton, Harriet Taylor. Letter to Martha McClelland Brown. Martha McClellan Brown Papers, CORE Scholar, Women's History Commons. https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1047&context=special_ms147_correspondence