Oak Park suffragist honored by Pomeroy Foundation

Grace Wilbur Trout's Oak Park property added to Votes for Women Trail

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Coinciding with the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Oak Park suffragist Grace Wilbur Trout is being honored for her contributions to the women's suffrage movement in the state of Illinois by the Pomeroy Foundation. 

"She was a driving force," said Oak Parker Mary Ann Porucznik, who co-authored a book about Trout, The Woman Who Never Fails [see more in Viewpoints, p. 23]. 

In collaboration with the National Votes for Women Trail, the foundation has included Trout in its Women's Suffrage Marker program for her work as a statewide leader in the fight to gain women the right to vote. Trout ranks high among other influential women throughout the country who strove to achieve voting rights in the face of major adversity.

"People should be proud because Grace lived here in Oak Park," said Porucznik.

The honor was secured through the joint efforts of the League of Women Voters, the Historical Society of Oak Park-River Forest and the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, of which Trout was a member during her life. 

Trout had an active presence in numerous Illinois suffrage clubs and groups, including serving for two years as president of the Chicago Political Equality League, starting in 1910. In 1912, she was elected president of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association. Trout held the position of president for almost a decade. 

"Oh my goodness, what this woman did was amazing," said Marge Massarello, who helped secure the honor as part of the League of Women Voters team.

Trout indefatigably traveled all over the state, gaining supporters and spreading the gospel of equal voting rights for women. Inexperienced but highly strategic, Trout successfully organized public campaigns and lobbied state legislators.

"She knew what they liked, what they didn't like, what their wife liked, what their wife didn't, where they lived, how they voted in the past," said Porucznik, who is also a member of both the League of Women Voters as well as the historical society.

Trout was nonpartisan in her approach to campaigning for women's suffrage, going after the support of all people and legislators, regardless of political party affiliation.

"She didn't care who you were or which party you were with," said Massarello. "She just wanted to convince you that women's suffrage was really important."

Her efforts, with those of other suffragists, helped secure Illinois' status as the first state east of the Mississippi River to grant women the right to vote in presidential elections in 1913 and arguably the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Trout died in 1955 at age 91, after a long career campaigning for women's rights. 

Trout's marker will be unveiled Aug. 20 at the Oak Park River Forest History Museum, 129 Lake St., in a small, socially-distanced celebration held on the museum's front lawn. 

The marker will then go to its permanent place outside 414 Forest Ave., where Trout's Oak Park residence once stood. The original home has since been torn down, but coincidentally, the woman who now lives on the property is both a member of the League of Women Voters and the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association. 

COVID-19 permitting, the parties involved plan to have a larger gathering in celebration of the Trout Pomeroy marker next spring.

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