Carrie Stofer Whalon

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Carrie Stofer Whalon, 1870-1927

By William Franklin Gulde

Originally published online in "Vintage Irvington," accessible at https://vintageirvington.blogspot.com/2022/02/pioneering-black-suffragette-lived-in.html

For a profile of the author and links to his online publications, see https://www.blogger.com/profile/03543618957186432656

Originally published: Friday, February 11, 2022

Pioneering Black Suffragist Lived in Irvington

On June 19 and 20, 1916, women from all over the state of Indiana gathered during a convention to hear the keynote speaker and the president of the National Franchise League, Carrie Chapman Catt. Dozens of state leaders and some politicians also attended the two-day event. The estimated 500 delegates rose to their feet and applauded as Mrs. Catt stood to speak. Other franchise groups attended the conference as did some politicians. Mrs. Catt was blunt in her speech. She had been disappointed by the stance of several of Indiana's elected officials who did not support suffrage for women. She noted that the United States had been "inconsistent" with regard to the freedom of half of the population. She noted that more Republicans favored women's suffrage than Democrats. Part of her speech was xenophobic as she noted that "if there are incompetents voting now, then something should be done to stop the naturalization of ignorant foreigners." She also raged against apathetic women who supported the cause but did nothing. Her speech angered some in the audience including some Democrats.

Also sitting in the audience that day was another Carrie although most at the event likely did not know her name. Carrie Whalon of 438 South Ritter Avenue had come to the convention in her role as the president of the First Colored Woman's Suffrage Club. She was not alone and sat next to two of her fellow neighbors, Minnie Highbaugh and Lizzie Compton. It is not known how many of the 500 delegates present were black, but there were at least three.

So who was Carrie Whalon? We must start with the fact that there are several unknowns about her life including the spelling of her last name. Both her will and death certificate spell her name as Whalon, but in many newspapers, including the black-owned Indianapolis Recorder, her name was spelled as "Whallon" or "Whallen" in many articles. Carrie Stofer was born in 1870 as the daughter of Jack Stofer and Minnie Berry Stofer Grubb Williams in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. At some point, she married William Jackson and had two children, Stofer and Louvenia (possibly Lavenia). We do not know what happened to Mr. Jackson, but the 1900 Federal Census indicates that she married Thomas Tipton, a laborer at a planing mill in Montgomery County, Kentucky. Mr. Tipton had six children of his own and with Carrie's two children made for a very large family. Gaps in her life remain, but we know that she married for the final time on August 1, 1910, to John Whallon (also spelled Whallen) in Louisville, Kentucky. There were Whalons living at the intersection at Greenfield and Ritter Avenue in Irvington so this is likely how she ended up moving north.

We are not sure of the exact moment that Carrie and John Whalon moved to Irvington. We do know that her children did not move up to Indianapolis right away. An Indianapolis Recorder article indicated that her son Stofer came up from Mount Sterling, Kentucky to visit his Mom, Mrs. Carrie Tipton Whalon, at 425 West St. Clair Street. Another Recorder blurb from the same year noted that Mr. and Mrs. Whalon moved into their home at 5521 Greenfield Avenue. John Whalon is listed at that address until 1915.

By 1916, Carrie Whalon no longer lived at the Greenfield Avenue address. She appears to have moved in with the Tarpennings, a white family at 260 South Ritter Avenue, where she "lived in the rear" of the home. She was frequently listed as a "cook" so she likely served as a domestic for various Irvington families. She did not live there long.

In the summer of 1916, Carrie Whalon achieved a dream of buying her own home. The Indianapolis Recorder noted that Mrs. Whalon purchased a "beautiful two-story frame home at 438 South Ritter Avenue." A later ad called it a "pretty" three-bedroom cottage. Behind her would have been an open field, and farmland existed south of her along Brookville Road. She would have heard the rumble of the trains along the nearby Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and from the new Irvington Ice and Coal Company located about a half block north. Her son and later his wife and grandson moved in with her.

While she was busy setting up her new house, she was also very committed in 1916 as president of the First Woman's Colored League in Indianapolis. The club met weekly in various women's homes primarily on the west side of Indianapolis so Mrs. Whalon would have had the added expense of traveling from Irvington to the west side. The inaugural meeting took place on April 27, 1916, at the home of Mrs. Ida Winston at 401 West Pratt Street (later 9th Street). Mrs. Whalon spoke as the presiding officer and served tea to the new members along with two white guests, Grace Julian Clarke and Mrs. Orville O. Carvin of Irvington. Both Mrs. Clarke and Carvin had long been involved in the suffrage movement and were there to advise the ladies on their new club. Black women were seldom invited into long-standing franchise leagues, thus the need for a separate club.

Throughout the year, the ladies of the First Woman's Colored League continued to meet. On October 5, 1916, the women invited Mrs. Claudia Pash to speak to the club as she had already voted three times as women in certain parts of the United States had the right to vote. On October 17, 1916, Carrie Whalon hosted the group at her home in Irvington. The women asked their husbands and other men to attend since black men in Indiana did have the right to vote. All over the state, women were encouraging their husbands, brothers, and fathers to elect candidates who were in favor of women's suffrage. The First Woman's Colored League was no different.

After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, millions of women cast their vote for the first time. Although we have no record of it, it is highly likely that Carrie Whalon was one of those women. She joined the Republican Party and was very involved in a local black chapter in Irvington. An Indianapolis Recorder article noted that Mrs. Whalon served as the secretary of the club. During the Indianapolis mayoral primary in 1921, there were three candidates on the Republican ticket. In April of that year, the club met at the Knights of Pythias building at 202 1/2 South Audubon Road to endorse a local favorite, Thomas Carr Howe. He spoke to the club that night as did numerous other speakers. Although Mr. Howe did not win the nomination, Carrie Whalon and other black women in Indiana now had a political voice in state and federal politics.

At some point during the 1920s, Carrie Whalon became sick. Doctors diagnosed her with cancer. She continued to remain politically active. She was also very involved at the First Baptist Church at 231 Good Avenue where she helped to organize a chapter of the Mother's Aid Society. In another era, it is likely that Mrs. Whalon would have run for a political office, but there were few opportunities for black women in the 1920s as the Ku Klux Klan dominated the state of Indiana in that era. Likely knowing that the end was near, she signed her last will and testament on January 4, 1926. She left her house and her money to her children and to her mother. Her death certificate in 1927 indicated that she was buried at the Floral Park Cemetery on Holt Road although there does not appear to be a headstone.

Sources:

State Suffrage Convention and Carrie Chapman Catt, "Leaders of Suffrage Leagues and National Head to Confer," Indianapolis Star, June 18, 1916, 47.

"Disappointed Over Suffrage Conference," Indianapolis News, June 20, 1916, 3.

Carrie Whallon, Minnie Highbaugh, and Lizzie Compton at the convention, Indianapolis Recorder,June 24, 1916, 2.

Marriage to John Whallon, Kentucky Marriage Licenses on Ancestry.com.

Visit from her son, Indianapolis Recorder, May 20, 1911, 8.

Move to Greenfield Avenue--Indianapolis Recorder, July 22, 1911, 4.

Purchase of 438 South Ritter--Indianapolis Recorder, June 24, 1916, 8.

First Woman's Franchise Club, Indianapolis Recorder, April 15, 1916, 8.

Indianapolis News, April 22, 1916; Indianapolis Recorder, May 6, 1916, 2; Indianapolis Recorder, September 23, 1916, 2; Indianapolis Recorder, October 7, 1916, 2.

Republican party chapter in Irvington--"Robison Best Asset of Shank Campaign," Indianapolis News, April 21, 1921.

Death announcement--Indianapolis Recorder, August 31, 1927; Her will and death certificate were obtained on Ancestry.com.

For further reading on Indiana's suffrage movement, Anita Morgan, "We Must Be Fearless": The Woman Suffrage Movement in Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2020.

 

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