by Diana McCollum
It wasn't till June 4, 1919, that Congress passed the 19th Amendment guaranting all American women the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was ratified and became law on August 18, 1920.
You still had to be a citizen to vote. The Civil Right Act of 1866 granted citizenship to everyone born in the US. There were exceptions: those born to foreign diplomats and Native Americans that were "not taxed" or Native Americans who lived on Reservations.
I'm giving you this background information to show what a heroine Eliza (Lydia) Burton Conley was during her life span.
She was half Native American and half European. Eliza was born in 1869, a direct descendent of Chief Tarhe. Her family lived on the Wyandotte Nation in Kansas. Her parents encouraged their three daughters to attend school and get an education. This was not something women were encouraged to do back then.
Eliza not only received an education, she went on to college and became a lawyer. (She still could not vote!) Eliza was the first Native American and the first Woman to be admitted to the Kansas State Bar.
Eliza fought all the way to the Supreme Court to protect the Huron (Native American Cemetery, a Wyandotte burial ground, from being sold to Kansas City. This was the resting place of her mother and father and the final resting place of hundreds of Wyandotte Native ancestors.
"We were fighting for the grave of our mother, and what could anyone do, in a case like that, but die rather than surrender?"
Kansas City had grown around this last piece of tribal land, the cemetery. The good folks of Kansas City wanted to get rid of it.
She was instrumental in getting Congress to protect Indian Burial Grounds nation wide. This was 1909. Women and Native Americans did not have the right to vote!
Eliza went on to fight for women and Native Americans in a time in our history when it was not an easy path to take.
She believed in respect for the repressed Native cultures. Eliza paved the way for women's rights refusing to agree with the gender roles of the times.
(Lyda) Burton Conley
To Eliza Burton Conley, little known heroine who paved the way for women, & Native Americans!