Josephine Henry; dedicated activist

December 9, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

From her earliest days Josephine Henry worked for human rights, especially for women. One of her goals was to get the state of Kentucky to recognize women as their own person once they were married. In 1890 Kentucky was the only state left in the United States where a married women had no right to own any property. This includes clothes, land property, and even wages that a married woman made. Unfortunately this was actually still a law in Kentucky so she worked hard to change that.

In 1894 she succeeded in her many years of lobbying when the Kentucky legislature passed the Married Woman’s Property Act. This act gave women in Kentucky who were married the right to purchase property, keep their own wages and to be able to write a will of their own. Josephine Henry was able to accomplish this task by attending and speaking in front of the General Assembly and even the members of the 1890 Constitutional Convention. After getting attention spread throughout the state, the act was able to be formed and passed into law for the state of Kentucky. This is so important because of the new laws that allowed women more rights and control of their own lives and continued the larger national efforts for woman’s suffrage.


For more information, see the University of Kentucky Libraries, Special Collections and Archives
Laura Clay papers accession #46M4
Madeline McDowell Breckinridge papers accessing #52M3 and #60M49

See also:
– Close, Harriet M. (23 February 1908). “Mrs. Josephine K. Henry”. Blue Grass Blade (Lexington, Kentucky): pp. 2. Retrieved 16 March 2010. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069867/1908-02-23/ed-1/seq-2
– Dew, Aloma. “Josephine Kirby Williamson Henry,” pages 80-81 in Kentucky Women: Two Centuries of Indomitable Spirit and Vision. Eugenia K. Potter, ed. Louisville: Big Tree Press, 1997.
Marylynn Salmon, Women and the Law of Property in Early America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

5 responses to Josephine Henry; dedicated activist

  1. Through out this semester, I have began to wonder what my life would be like not having the freedom and rights many young women take for granted each day. One key of empowerment for young women today is knowing how women of the past fought to make their life better. Thanks for sharing about Josephine Henry.

  2. I am surprised that she was even allowed to speak in front of the General assembly. It seems that if a woman at that time was not allowed to have have her own wages she would not be allowed to speak in such a formal setting as that in front of men. I am certainly glad she was though.

  3. I am surprised that she was even allowed to speak in front of the General assembly. It seems that if a woman at that time was not allowed to have have her own wages she would not be allowed to speak in such a formal setting as that in front of men. I am certainly glad she was though.

  4. I completely agree, this class has made me not only appreciate the work the women before us have done to grant us equal rights to men, but it has also made me realize how important it is to not just sit back and wait for someone else to change things.

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