Suffragists in Pennsylvania campaigning for the right to vote

? Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


As Pennsylvanians wait for results of a very contentious Senate race, it’s a good time to recall another political battle in the Commonwealth.

It was 1922, the first full election cycle after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote — and over 50 ran for public office in Pa. In a groundbreaking moment, two of the women earned major party nominations for U.S. House of Representatives.

One of them was Jane E. Leonard, a former professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She ran to represent the 27th Congressional District in Western Pa. She lost, but reportedly won a larger percentage of votes than any Democratic candidate in more than 10 years

The other was Ellen Duane Davis, the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District in Philadelphia, where she was also chair of the Women’s Democratic City Committee. Unfortunately, her campaign received little substantial coverage. She lost to her Republican challenger with only 13% of the vote.

What did get attention, however, was her lineage. Davis’s great-great-grandfather was Benjamin Franklin (yes, the Ben Franklin), who left her quite a bit of ephemera to be discovered at an estate sale.

Follow this thread to see what else we know about Davis, and what we don’t.

Avatar photo

Avi Wolfman-Arent

Avi Wolfman-Arent is a host on 90.9 FM and an education reporter with WHYY News, where he's worked since 2014. Prior to that he covered nonprofits for the Chronicle of Philanthropy and education technology...