Olympia Brown was a woman's rights advocate during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.
Brown was born on January 5, 1835, in Prairie Ronde, Michigan. Brown's father, a farmer, encouraged his daughter to pursue her education. She attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts for a single year, before enrolling at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Brown's parents and sisters eventually moved to Yellow Spring, so that all four Brown daughters could attend Antioch College. Olympia Brown graduated from this institution in 1860.
Upon graduating, Brown sought admittance to divinity school. The Unitarian School of Meadville, Pennsylvania, refused her application. Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, was willing to let her enroll but notified Brown that she would not be permitted to preach. Finally, the Universalist Divinity School at St. Lawrence University admitted Brown with no restrictions. In 1863, the Universalist Church ordained Brown as a minister, and in 1864, she accepted a position as minister with a Universalist Church in Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, Brown began socializing with several women's rights activists, including Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony. At these women's urging, Brown traveled to Kansas during the summer of 1867. Here, she gave speeches across the state, encouraging men to grant women the right to vote. She failed to convince many men, but Brown emerged from this summer as a prominent women's rights activist.
Brown remained involved in the Universalist Church, becoming the minister of a church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1870. In 1874, she resigned this position and eventually became the minister of a church in Racine, Wisconsin. At fifty-three years of age, Brown left this church to devote her life to women's rights. She became a member of the Woman's Party and lectured across the United States on the need for equal rights for women with men. She also co-founded the New England Woman Suffrage Association and served as the president of the Federal Suffrage Association and as the vice president of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
Thanks to Brown's and other women's efforts, in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, was ratified. At eighty-five years of age, Brown voted in her first election. She died on October 23, 1926.
- Cote, Charlotte. Olympia Brown: The Battle for Equality. N.p.: Mother Courage Press, 1988.