Important Events and Dates Related to Women in Chicago

As a major city of diverse population and commercial hub, Chicago had its share of social activism, expressed in protests, marches, campaigns and parades.
As early as 1910, “Goddess of Anarchy” Lucy Parsons led anti-Capitalist mass demonstrations of homeless and unemployed people in Chicago – an unusual action at a time for a non-white woman.
In the same decade, while Parsons was advocating for class-struggle, Janet Ayer Fairbank led 5,000 suffragettes parading in the Chicago summer rain for women’s right to vote. When the 19th amendment passed in 1920, giving women right to vote, Chicago saw another parade in its streets, reminding women to register to exercise their right to vote.

In addition to Jane Addams, and her collaborators of Hull House who provided innovative social services to the poor, Chicago knew great female activists. Florence Scala protested against demolition of Little Italy for the construction of the University of Illinois, including trying to save the original Hull House. Hazel M. Johnson, known as the “Mother of the environmental justice movement,” was one of Chicago’s environmental and public housing activists from the 1970s until her death in 2011.

Two more women in Chicago’s history that should be mentioned are Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded hospitals and schools in Chicago and died there, is the first American citizen to be canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1946.
And Helen Cirese, who in 1921 became the youngest woman to receive a law license in Illinois, later she became a judge in her native Oak Park. Fought to free the first woman sentenced to death in Chicago.

More recent major expressions of public mass activism in Chicago include the 1980 rally of 90,000 participants calling for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the 2017 Women’s March that is said to have attracted 250,000 people.

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