Ida Husted Harper Scrapbooks
Dates: 1878-1893
Accession Number: 20071009A
Description:  Seven file folders in a document case 

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,” using the pseudonym of Mrs. John Smith.  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 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. (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 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 copies of scrapbooks of the writings of ida Husted Harper from Terre Haute publications.

According to Harper, her articles/columns were collected by her mother and found by her brother and placed in two scrapbooks after her mother died.  Harper donated the scrapbooks to the Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library in June 1915.  The scrapbooks were microfilmed and the originals were discarded.  The copies in this collection were made from microfilm.


Document Case





Scrapbook, Volume 1 - 1878-1883





Folder 1

Introduction; pages. 1-50





Folder 2

Pages 51-100





Folder 3

Pages 101-150





Folder 4

Pages 151-178





Scrapbook, Volume 2 - 1883-1897





Folder 5

Pages 1-50





Folder 6

Pages 51-100





Folder 7

Pages 101-131





Folder 8

Pages 132-140





Folder 9

Pages 141-209