Katharine Wright

Soon after it was founded, Oakwood was home to an ardent activist for women’s rights.

Orville Wright, his sister Katharine, and their father Milton moved into Hawthorne Hill at the corner of Park and Harman Avenues in Oakwood in 1914. Wilbur Wright had intended to live there as well but died just after the family had purchased the property in 1912.[1] Oakwood is proud of its connection to the Wright Brothers: although both lacked college educations, and their funding was limited to the income from their Dayton bicycle shop, they designed, built, and flew the world’s first motor-powered airplane. Katharine Wright, though less famous today, was just as dedicated to her own passions: in addition to assisting her brothers’ careers[2], she was deeply involved in the women’s suffrage movement and other social issues of her day.

In the fall of 1914, the same year that the Wrights moved to Oakwood, Ohioans were voting on an amendment to the state constitution granting women the right to vote. Katharine Wright, who described herself as “very much in earnest” about women’s suffrage[3], was one of the lead organizers of a parade in Dayton supporting the amendment; Orville and Milton Wright marched with her. The next day’s issue of the Dayton Daily News reported that thousands of supporters had attended.[4]

After women gained suffrage in 1920, Katharine didn’t stop trying to improve the world she lived in. Instead, as she wrote to a friend in 1924, “Now that [women’s suffrage is] settled, I look around for other worlds to conquer.”[3] Starting in that year, Katharine served on Oberlin College’s board of trustees.[5] Oberlin was the first college in the United States to admit women and one of the first to admit Black students. As a trustee, Katharine remained an active supporter of women’s rights, pushing the college to grant honorary degrees to women as well as to men and to give its male and female employees equal pay.[3]

Katharine Wright is a fascinating example of Oakwood’s heritage of local activism and community involvement. Just as Katharine sought new ways to improve her community once women’s suffrage was made law, those of us who live and work in Oakwood today can follow her lead by pursuing new ways to advance our town and our world in response to contemporary needs.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawthorn_Hill [2] https://www2.oberlin.edu/stupub/ocreview/2006/09/15/features/Forever_and_Always_Wright.html [3] https://www2.oberlin.edu/alummag/winter2003/feat_wright.html [4] https://www.dayton.com/what-to-love/dayton-history/dayton-marched-for-suffrage-i-hope-i-shall-not-die-before-the-american-women-are-emancipated/VJC2B5Z4GBCNTFGVTO6DFOGJNM/ [5] https://www.nps.gov/daav/learn/historyculture/katharinewrightslifestory.htm