26th Annual KERA Convention held in Lexington

Randolph Hollingsworth's picture

Project Name:
Kentucky Woman Suffrage

Name of Historic Site:
Phoenix Hotel (no longer standing)

Event(s)/Use associated with woman/group/site:
Kentucky Equal Rights Association statewide convention site, 1915



Zip Code:
Street Address: 
East Main Street

Associated Organization:

Years of Importance:
Geographic Location: 
Your Affiliation: 
University of Kentucky

Additional Comments:

In November 8-10, 1915, the Phoenix Hotel was the meeting site for the Kentucky Equal Rights Association. After an automobile parade down Lexington's Main Street on the afternoon of November 8th, the suffragists gathered for an afternoon reception, called a "Boston Tea Party" hosted by KERA President Madeline McDowell Breckinridge at Ashland (Henry Clay estate). That evening at the Old Opera House on North Broadway, the Lexington Mayor J.E. Cassidy welcomed the group and they listened to a lecture by Ethel Snowden, of London, England. A pacifist and socialist, the Viscountess Ethel Snowden was a speaker for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in England and was on a world-wide lecture tour when she and her husband, Philip, came to Lexington. She was opposed to the use of violence in any form, including the tactics undertaken by the British suffragettes under the leadership of Mrs. Pankhurst. She had been in Kentucky several times before, at the Louisville Chatauqua in 1907, at the Louisville Woman’s Outdoor Art League in 1908, again in Louisville in 1913. She had been commissioned by the Fayette County Equal Rights Association to give a speaking tour of 10 lectures around Kentucky organized by Mrs. E.L. Hutchinson of Lexington: Covington Nov. 5th, Richmond Nov 6th, Lexington at the convention on the 8th, Frankfort Nov 12, Louisville Nov 14, Owensboro Nov 18th and Paducah on the 19th. Her book The Feminist Movement (London, 1913) includes chapters on making the case for woman suffrage.

On November 9th, the meeting opened in the Ball Room of the Phoenix Hotel. The convention offered several other items of interest to the whole community, including a presentation by Madame Rosika Schwimmer of Hungary on the international peace movement. Schwimmer had been working since 1913 as an international press secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and she was living in London when the war broke out. She came to the U.S. to find champions in the woman suffrage movement for a neutral mediation of what came to be known as the Great War. She lectured on woman suffrage to support herself, but it was her stories about the horrors of war and her appeals for peace that got her the paying audiences she needed.

The format of the organization changed slightly for this year, with the addition of special committees such as news correspondent or state and county fairs, and the creation of an advisory board made up of men and women from across Kentucky. Walter J. Millard of Cincinnati spoke on Wednesday evening in a program entitled “For Men Especially” with the topic of his lecture: “Chivalry Up-to-Date.” According to the KERA minutes, he defined chivalry as “a generous act without expected compensation,” and that the granting of woman suffrage would bring chivalry “up-to-date.” As in the previous two years, a large number of local reports were received, this year from: Louisville, Shelby County, Franklin County, Meade County, Hardin County, Crittenden County, Bell County, Carlisle County, Boyd County, Clark County, Daviess County, Madison County, Hopkins County, Mercer County, Warren County, McCracken County, Hancock County, Woodford County and Fleming County.

Standing at the corner of East Main and Limestone Street (formerly the Maysville Road), this version of the Phoenix Hotel had been constructed in 1897 on top of three other taverns that had been placed there since the early 1800s. The building was demolished by Governor Wallace Wilkinson in 1981 to make way for what he proposed to be the World Coal Center - but this proposed corporate headquarters of major coal companies did not ever get built. In its stead is Phoenix Park, a popular space for public demonstrations and often a refuge for those who wander the streets of Lexington.

Reference source of Information:
"Report of the Twenty-Sixth Annual Convention of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association Held at Lexington, Kentucky, November 8, 9 and 10, 1915". ExploreUK. University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, KY.