Ida Harper Research Material
Dates: 1873-1984
Accession Number: 20070928H
Description:  One flat storage box

Biography of Ida Harper, 1851-1890 

Ida A. (Husted) Harper was a journalist, women's rights advocate and suffragette who lived in Terre Haute from 1871 to 1890.

Ida Husted was born in Fairfield, Indiana on February 15, 1851 and moved to Muncie, Indiana when she was 10 years old.  She was a member of the first graduating class of Muncie High School in 1868 and attended Indiana University for one year.  During the 1870-1871 school year she was a principal and teacher in Peru, Indiana.

In 1871, Ida Husted married Thomas W. Harper, a lawyer who eventually became chief legal counsel for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen which was led by Eugene V. Debs.  The couple moved to Thomas' hometown of Terre Haute where Ida did not know anyone.  To combat her loneliness and, “to occupy my time I began to reply to various things that appeared in the Saturday Evening Mail.”  Eventually Perry Westfall, the editor of the newspaper, discovered her identity and offered her a small salary.  Her husband was “willing I should write . . but said I must not accept any money.  This was the attitude of most husbands in that day.  I informed Mr. Westfall that I would accept his proposition, including the pay.”

Harper's first columns  were originally titled “A Woman's Thoughts by a new contributor” but to her, the word “Thoughts” was too “mild” and the editor acquiesced to changing the word to “Opinions”.  From the early 1870s to 1890,  Harper wrote nearly 400 articles for the Saturday Evening Mail, the Terre Haute Daily News and the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine (LFM) which was edited by Eugene Debs.  Debs eventually put her in charge of the magazine's Woman's Department.

Ida Husted Harper was a staunch advocate and defender of women's rights, particularly in the controversial area of women's suffrage.  She never hesitated to state her views whether they ran contrary to William Mack, a local judge and well-regarded and respected public figure or  to Belva Lockwood, a leading women's rights advocate. (See Folder 15 in collection for Harper's response to Lockwood.)

The Mack-Harper debate was prompted when Mack spoke to his colleagues in the all-male Terre Haute Literary Club about women's rights  in November 1888.  Mack argued that women should not be given the right to vote.  After reviewing the recent progress of Hoosier women's rights in state law, he asked, “What then is her [a woman's] true sphere? The answer is on a plane above man, purer, better and more angelic. . . Should a good angel come from Heaven to dwell with humanity who would for a moment think of lowering him to an equality with the average man, claiming for him the right to bear arms, vote and run for office?.....What might be said of an angel properly applies to all types of true womanhood.”

Harper responded in her own newspaper article (Dec. 1, 1888) that women “would like to have their status clearly defined.  There are twenty-five thousand women in the state of Indiana earning their own living….If these women feel that they would like to protect their interests in the same way that working men do and ask for the ballot, it is not much satisfaction to be told that they are angels and don't need it…..The angels have laid aside their wings, pinned up their robes and are ready for work.”

Ida Harper was very active in the civic, social, and religious realms of Terre Haute.  She supported libraries as the foundation for a well-rounded education.   In 1879, she was elected as one of the board members of the Library Association and at the first meeting of the board, she was elected as librarian.  Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Harper and her colleagues, the board was unable to generate enough interest from the community or from the Terre Haute Common Council and a county library was not formed until 1882.  Harper continued to support the library after her departure from Terre Haute, donating two scrapbooks of her writings to the library in June 1915.

Harper was an active member (along with Judge Mack) in the Terre Haute Horticultural Society, a member of the First Congregational Church and secretary of the church's Sewing Society. 

Ida Harper, 1890-1931

Ida and Tom Harper divorced in February 1890 and in May 1890 Ida moved to Indianapolis to work for the Indianapolis News.  In 1893, she moved to California where she enrolled with her daughter Winifred at Stanford University to complete her college education.  She graduated in 1895.  In 1896 she was in charge of press relations for the National American Woman Suffrage Association in their campaign for a state suffrage amendment in California.   As a result of her work in the suffrage campaign, Susan B. Anthony asked her to become Anthony's official biographer and the two began an association which ended only with Anthony's death..

From the 1890s to the 1920s, Harper divided her time between writing Anthony's 3-volume biography and serving as a  editor, syndicated columnist and newspaper correspondent.  She collaborated with Anthony on the 4th volume of Anthony's History of Woman Suffrage and after Anthony died, published the fifth and sixth volumes of the history in 1922, bringing the story up to 1920.

Ida Husted Harper died in Washington, D.C. on March 14, 1931 and is buried in Muncie, Indiana.

Content and Scope of Collection

This collection consists of material that was assembled for use in two research grants related to the publication of Ida Husted Harper's Terre Haute-era writings about women and women's suffrage.  The first grant was for the re-creation of the newspaper debate between Ida Husted Harper (pro) and Judge William Mack (con) on women's suffrage. The second grant, a Indiana Humanities Research Grant was for the assembling of Ida Harper's newspaper columns and the compilation of an index.  The results of that work is the Ida Husted Harper Collection (Accession Number 880301).

The collection includes newspaper articles written by and about Ida Husted Harper, Thomas W. Harper, Winifred Harper Cooley and Judge William Mack; pamphlets written by Ida H. Harper; excerpts from secondary sources with entries about Ida Husted Harper and obituaries for Ida Husted Harper, Thomas Harper and William Mack.

For additional information see the Ida Husted Harper Scrapbooks collection (Accession Number 20071009A)   and the Ida Husted Harper Collection (Accession Number 880301)

Flat Storage Box





Folder 1

“Ida and the Judge” - Grant proposal submitted to Indiana State University by Joseph Tenerelli, Ph.D., professor in the Communications Department for the purpose of producing a documentary recreating in verbal form the written debate between Judge William Mack (con) and Ida Harper (pro) on women's suffrage. 1985





Secondary Source Material about Ida Husted Harper (Folders 2-9)




Folder 2

Newspaper articles about Ida H. Harper written by Lois Harris, VCPL Archivist for the Terre Haute Tribune- Star's Valley Heritage Section (each article on page E3)






Part 1:  “Ida Harper's Words Reflected Loneliness” April 29, 1984






Part 2: “Harper Mixed Opinions and Facts”, May 6, 1984





Part 3: “Ida Husted Harper Used Wit in Recording
  Women's Changing Lives”, May 13, 1984






Part 4: “Ida Harper's Career Took Her to Big Cities”, May 20, 1984





Folder 3

Harris, Lois.  “Ida Harper.”  Draft of articles in Folder 2  submitted for publication to Terre Haute Tribune Star, March 30, 1984





Folder 4

Dye, Charity.  Some Torch Bearers in Indiana (pp. 104 and 249)





Women of Indiana: A Work for Newspaper and Library Reference.
  compiled by Blanche Foster Boruff.  Matthew Farson: Indianapolis.
  1941 (p. 15)





Indiana Authors and Their Books, 1816-1916.  Crawfordsville:
  Wabash College. 1949. (pp. 134-135)




Henry, Robert (editor). Liberty's Women. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company. 1980 (p. 178)





Dictionary of American Biography, v. 8  (pp. 281-282)





Ginger, Ray.  The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene Victor Debs.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.  1949 (mentions both Tom and Ida Husted Harper; pp. 27, 29-31, 43-44, 53, 132)




Folder 5

Jones, Nancy Baker.  “A Forgotten Feminist:  The Early Writings
  of Ida Husted Harper, 1878-1894”.  Indiana Magazine of History.
  v. 73, #2 (June 1977) pp. 79-101.





Brugnaux, Barbara.  “Terre Haute Feminist of 1890's Subject of Research by ISU Grad Student”.  Terre Haute Tribune Star.  Nov. 19, 1972.
  (Article about Nancy Baker Jones)




Folder 6

“Some Outstanding Women of Our Church's Past” - Paper presented by Marian Gray to members of the Women's Guild, First Congregational Church




Folder 7

Minutes, Sewing Society, First Congregational Church (IHH was Secretary)





Folder 8

“Ida Harper's Voice in her Life and Work of  Susan B. Anthony - Volume 1 (Notes taken by Archivist Lois Harris)






Chapter 29, Life and Work of  Susan B. Anthony
  (photocopy, pp. 499-507)






Obituary notice written by IHH's daughter, Winifred Harper Cooley in Grand Rapids Press  (Michigan) - reprinted in Appendix of Life and Work of  Susan B. Anthony (p. 1566)





Folder 9

Citations of Ida Harper from Community Affairs File and archival collections in Vigo County Public Library





Articles and Books Written by and about Ida Husted Harper (Folders 10-20)




Folder 10

A Woman's Opinions (scrapbook), Vol. 1.  1878-1893.  Introduction (3 pages)

June 1915




Folder 11

“A Woman's Opinion” (4 articles on her participation in Chatauqua, an adult education movement in the 19th century)






“A Noble Woman - Comparison of Susan B. Anthony's present position with that she occupied not many years ago.”





Folder 12

Locomotive Firemen's Magazine





Folder 13

Harper, Ida Husted. “The Terre Haute Public Library.”

early 1880s





Wiley, Anna Bowles.  “Fairbanks Library Real
  Storehouse of Books and Sources of Study”.  Terre Haute Tribune.

Jan. 31, 1938




Folder 14

“Woman Suffrage”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette. 

Dec. 30, 1887





“Woman Suffrage - Ida A. Harper Demands the Ballot For Her Sex as a Right”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette

Dec. 31,1887




Folder 15

“Terre Haute Literary Club”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette (p. 1; Announcement of Judge Mack's speech)

Nov. 20, 1888





“Woman.  Her True Sphere Considered by Judge Mack - A Paper Read Before the Terre Haute Literary Club”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette.

Nov. 24,1888





“Woman - Mrs. Ida Harper Answers Judge Mack's Paper - ‘The Angels' Have Laid Aside Their Wings, Pinned Up Their Robes and are Ready for Work”

Dec. 1, 1888




Folder 16

“Mrs. Ida A. Harper: She Writes Upon Men and
  Women and Things in General - The Shrewd Scheme of Belva Lockwood Criticised”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette.

Nov. 24,1888





Steinborn, Carla. “The Woman on the 1884 Ballot.”
  Washington Post.  (Article about Belva Lockwood)

Nov. 8, 1984




Folder 17

“Mrs Ida Harper Gives Her Impressions of the Capital City”.  Terre Haute Evening Gazette.

Feb. 2, 1889




Folder 18

Associated Work of the Women of Indiana.  Indianapolis: Wm. R. Burford (2 copies)





Folder 19

How Six States Won Woman Suffrage.  National American Woman Suffrage Association





Folder 20

Suffrage Snapshots.  Washington D.C.





Newspaper Articles About…..                  (Folders 21-27)





Folder 21

Marriage, divorce and obituary information for Ida Husted Harper and Thomas W. Harper





Folder 22

Ida Harper





Folder 23

Thomas W. Harper - Clutter v. Clutter (Divorce case)

Dec. 16, 1882-
Dec. 29, 1882




Folder 24

Thomas W. Harper





Folder 25

William Mack (see also Folder 22)





Folder 26

Winifred Harper Cooley (article about Cooley's book The New Womanhood by Susan Ball in her “Woman's World” newspaper column)

Nov. 19, 1904




Folder 27

Women and women's issues (4 articles)

1873-1887; n.d.