A live weekly radio adventure through Indiana history with host Nelson Price. Airs live on Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 fm in Indianapolis.
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Our March 18 show, "Funeral business evolution and civic involvement in Indy" Click here
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March 25, 2023
Women of historic Irvington
The first Girl Scout troop in Indianapolis. The first African American woman to graduate from an Indiana college. A suffragist who became a top leader of women's groups in the state. And the founders of the first Black sorority at a predominantly white college in the country.
All of those women and girls had a deep connection to Irvington, the historic neighborhood on the eastside of Indianapolis. As Hoosier History Live salutes Women's History Month, they are among the women whom we will spotlight when Nelson is joined by Sampson Levingston, founder of Through 2 Eyes, a history storyteller who does popular "walk and talk'' tours through diverse Indianapolis neighborhoods, including Irvington.
Sampson has researched the historic women and girls whom we will describe, including Indianapolis Girl Scout Troop 1. The first Girl Scout troop in Marion County was formed in 1917, just five years after the organization had been founded nationally. The local scouts initially got together in private homes. They eventually began meeting regularly at Irvington Presbyterian Church, where an Indiana historical marker commemorates the trail-blazing troop.
Another trail-blazer, Gertrude Mahorney, became the first African American woman in Indiana to graduate from an Indiana college when she received a bachelor's degree from Butler University in 1887. For more than 50 years, from the 1870s into the 1920s, Butler was located in Irvington, where Gertrude Mahorney lived. She went on to receive a master's degree from Butler and became a teacher at schools in Ohio and Indiana.
Butler also was the alma mater of Grace Julian Clarke (1865-1938), a suffragist who became influential across Indiana and beyond. In addition to working for years for passage of the 19th Amendment that extended voting rights to women, Grace Julian Clarke headed up several statewide women's groups, including the forerunner of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. Our guest Sampson Levingston has created several YouTube videos related to his walking tours, including a video about Grace Julian Clarke, OUR WOMEN ARE TOUGH, who lived in Irvington for much of her life. In addition to her tireless advocacy on behalf of women, she also was an international peace activist.
Sampson has led more than 400 history walking tours since 2020. He also has been a previous Hoosier History Live guest, including on a program about Indiana sites listed in The Green Book. It was an annual guidebook for African American motorists from the mid-1930s through the mid-1960s, an era of widespread discrimination.
In the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan had a stranglehold on Indiana politics, its downfall was hastened with a deathbed account of an Irvington woman, Madge Oberholtzer. With Sampson, we will spotlight Madge Oberholtzer again. She was the focus of a Hoosier History Live show in 2021 when Nelson's guest was Charlotte Ottinger, the author of a deeply researched biography, titled Madge, published by the Irvington Historical Society. Madge Oberholtzer had been raped by D.C. Stephenson, the grand dragon of the KKK; her brave account of his brutality resulted in his arrest.
Madge Oberholtzer had attended Butler at its Irvington campus, as did seven African American women who became trail blazers in 1922. They founded Sigma Gamma Rho, the first Black sorority in the country founded on a predominately white campus. Sampson Levingston will share insights about the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sisters during our show.In 2022, more than 6,000 members of Sigma Gamma Rho from across the country attended events in Indianapolis to mark the sorority's 100th anniversary. During the gathering, an Indiana state historical marker was unveiled in Irvington to commemorate the founding of the sorority.
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Roadtrip: Schroeder Saddletree Museum in Madison
Guest Roadtripper and food and travel writer Jane Simon Ammeson, who can be followed at Travel/Food, tells us that "If you're one of the majority of Americans who don't know what a saddletree is, that's understandable”. Though once saddletrees were of significant importance, let's face it, who now has ever heard of such a thing. But consider that Madison, a riverport city in southeastern Indiana on the Ohio River, once had 12 saddletree manufacturers including what is now the Schroeder Saddletree Museum at 106 Milton Street, the last saddletree factory in America.
"Madison's entire downtown is a National Register historic district, consisting of over 1,700 contributing structures. Really, if anyone was going to have a saddletree factory open for tours where visitors can see the original machinery and watch the manufacturing process that produced wooden saddle frames, horse collars, clothespins, and other products, then it would certainly be Madison."
And we're not horsing around!
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