Emily Burton Ketcham
(1838 – 1907)
Emily Burton Ketcham, a native of Grand Rapids, was born in 1838 and dedicated thirty years of her life to the women’s right to vote. She was the best known of the founders of Grand Rapids’ suffrage groups, having been a charter member and serving four times as the president of the state organization.
Ketcham was instrumental in suffrage reform movements on the local, state and national levels. She and her suffragist colleagues – notably Mary L. Doe and May Stocking Knaggs – underwrote the later important work of Clara Arthur and Lucia Voorhees Grimes.
Her work began in 1873 during the initial effort to removed gender as a qualification for voting in Michigan. During that campaign, she developed lasting friendships with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. On the strength of Ketcham’s organizational prowess alone, Stanton and Anthony brought the National American Woman Suffrage Assn (NAWSA) to Grand Rapids for its annual convention in 1899.
By special invitation, Ketcham spoke in the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and in 1894, she addressed the Congressional Judiciary Committee in Washington. Her presence there was permanently registered in a Matthew B. Brady photograph featuring Ms. Ketchum and Susan B. Anthony with the NAWSA executive board.
At the time of her death in Detroit in 1907, Ketcham’s famous colleagues published a memorial booklet. One paragraph begins, "Mrs. Ketcham’s public work was not entirely absorbed by her effort to gain the rights of citizenship for women. Every charitable, benevolent, and educational project for her home city claimed and received..?
Ketcham’s husband, Smith G. Ketcham, openly supported her and "the good work" which she performed over a thirty year period. He said with great pride, "One delight ( of a recent trip to Idaho) was passing through three states where Equal Suffrage is a reality. I will try to shine by the reflected glory credited by your acquaintance."
Emily Burton Ketcham was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame in 1999.
Created: 22 Mar 2007