November 7 2009

Amanda M. Way and the Page Liquor Case
by Jill Hinty Keener

Amanda Way, Abolitionist, Suffragist and Prohibitionist, was born in 1828 near Winchester, the second of eight children, into one of the town’s original Quaker families  (Editor’s note:  Our classmate, Jean Moorman Brindle says that she and  Amanda shared the same grandfather, Tarleton Moorman.  Tarleton was grandfather to Amanda and great – great grandfather to Jean, making these two ladies cousins. Jean also reports that she was born on one of the farms that the Moorman family still owns.

She spent part of her youth living with her aunt, Mary Martin Reeder, Winchester’s pioneer Methodist. Reeder’s home was on the site where now stands the Randolph County Jail.  The only record that we have of Amanda’s formal education is that she is listed as a student at the Union Literary Society, a Quaker backed school in southwestern Randolph County.  The school itself is historic in that it is believed to be the first school in the United States to admit all, including Negroes and women, to its work – study program.  Negro students were not identified as such, but white students had a “w” after their names.  The Head Master of the School was Ebenezer Tucker who later wrote Tucker’s “History of Randolph County, Indiana”.

On some key issues the Methodists and Quakers agreed:

1.  Slavery should be abolished
2.  Drunkenness should be abolished
3.  Education should be open to everyone
4.  Everyone should have an equal opportunity

The Laws then in force excluded women and Negroes from most professions.  Married women had no property rights and any possessions that she had at the time of marriage belonged to her husband.  If he died he would leave some or all of their property to her, or if he chose he could leave everything to someone else…. usually an older son, as women were assumed to be incompetent to manage their own affairs.

Ms. Way joined the fight against liquor early, joining the Winchester Total Abstinence Society in 1844A schoolteacher by profession, Amanda was engaged to a Dr. Cook, in 1849 but he died during a Cholera epidemic, just three weeks before their scheduled wedding date.  

In January 1851, at the Congregational Friends Meeting in Greensboro, Indiana, Amanda presented a resolution to hold the 1st Women’s Rights convention, October 14 – 15 of that same year in Dublin, IN.   As vice-president this first venture into women’s rights, she gave the keynote address in which she says “Unless women demand their rights politically, socially and financially, they will continue in the future as in the past, to be classed with Negroes, criminals, insane persons, idiots and infants”.  During the Evening Session Address by H. C. Wright he stated”  “…. the great injustice of property laws, the inequality of wages, the insulting cruelty of shutting the doors of high schools and colleges against women, and then to taunt them with inferiority, is a rebuke to the men who make the laws that thus degrade their own wives and mothers.”  During the morning session resolutions were read and adopted.  They took the position that all class legislation is unjust and that all who are governed by laws should help make those laws.  H.C. Wright made a thrilling speech based upon the Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal.”  He showed how men had made the laws so that women were little better than slaves, the husband not only owning all the property but the children and wife, too.

She continued to emerge as one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement during the latter part of the 9th Century, but she didn’t start out to win the vote.  From beginning to end her aim was to correct injustice.  The Convention’s Resolution #6 makes the point:  “That all customs, laws and institutions that deprive women with an equal right with men to intellectual, social and moral improvement; to the attainment of wealth and personal comfort and independence, or to an equal share in creating, and administering the social, civil, and religious institutions under which they are to live, and to which they are to be held responsible, are unjust, cruel and oppressive and ruinous to the peace, order and progress of individuals and to the whole human family; and of all men and women who respect themselves and their fellow beings, will plead and labor for their change, or their overthrow.”

There was another resolution about a different type of problem:  On motion of Eliza Taylor, of New Castle, the following preamble and Resolution was adopted:  “Whereas, we believe the present style of female dress is highly inconvenient, unnatural and destructive of health and a mark of the degradation of women, therefore: Resolved, That the women of this convention pledge themselves, before our families, to throw off the bondage imposed upon us by Parisian Milliners and adopt a style of dress more in accordance with reason.” 

In 1860 when the Civil War began, four of Amanda’s brothers joined the Union Army.  One brother’s wife died, leaving the care of their young son to Amanda, who took care of him until his father returned from the War.  Amanda also joined Governor Morton’s Sanitary Commission and helped nurse wounded soldiers until the end of the War.  She was pensioned for this service in 1867.

She reorganized the Indiana Women’s Rights Association in 1869 and again served, as its president.  She had finally decided that women would never gain property rights without the vote.  The Indianapolis IWRA affiliated with the American Suffrage Association and in 1870 became the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Association.  Amanda served as Grand Worthy Chief Templar of the IOOGT and traveled over a thousand miles to lecture and organize 150 new lodges.  Then, she helped to found the Prohibition Party in Chicago.

She was licensed to preach by the Winchester Quarterly Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873 at age 43. When the Methodist Episcopal General Conference later barred such licenses for women, Amanda became a Friends minister.  She transferred her membership to Winchester Friends Church in 1884, and was recorded as a Friends minister in 1885. (Note:  Again, there is a connection to Jean.  Even though Amanda was denied her license to preach as a Methodist, Jean became the first woman to be ordained a minister in the North Indiana Conference of the United Methodist church in 1977, over 100 years later!)

Amanda was the first state president of the Kansas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.  In the 1890’s she lived in Boise, Idaho, where she organized the Friends Church and at the age of 72 ran for Congress on the Prohibition ticket in 1900, but did not win.  She died in Whittier, California in 1914 just 6 years before women were granted the right to vote. 

While Way’s role has only recently begun to attract scholarly attention, she was widely known in her time.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony included her biography in their landmark History of Women’s Suffrage (1889), calling her “the mother of ‘The Woman Suffrage Association,’ in Indiana.”  She was also acclaimed by Phebe Hanaford in Daughters of America (1882) and included in the biographical dictionary, Notable American Women (1971).

If Way’s early years were known for anything, however, they were known for her involvement in what was called the “Page Liquor Case.” 

William Page, a Winchester grocer licensed in 1839, apparently sold a large volume of liquor from his store located on the north side of West Washington Street just east of West Street.  In March 1854 Thorton Alexander, a neighbor of Page, died as a result of alcoholism, apparently fueled by Page’s grocery.  Alexander left a widow and five children “in abject poverty.”  The women of Winchester were enraged and formed a company of “forty or fifty of the most respectable ladies” to call upon all liquor sellers in the town on March 28.  Those known to have been in the crowd, lead by Amanda Way, were Eliza Alexander, widow of the deceased, Hannah (Mrs. Eli) Hiatt, Sylvania (Mrs. Jacob) Remmel, Emily Wheeler, Cinderella (Mrs. George) Bruce, Rebecca (Mrs. Silas) Colgrove, Thirza (Mrs. James) Way, Clarissa Way, Melissa (Mrs. Frank) Diggs, Margarette Griffen, James F. Davis, and Bruce Colgrove.  They appeared first at David Aker’s who signed a pledge to stop selling liquor.

They then moved to Page’s shop and asked him to sign the pledge.  He refused, and locked the door to prevent them from entering.  Undeterred, they used hatchets and hammers to chop down his door and break out a window.  They then rolled seven or eight barrels into the street, chopping off the “faucets,” and breaking out the heads.  They also did considerable damage to the inside of his shop.  The list of stock destroyed tells exactly how much damage they did: 

a barrel of brandy,
a barrel of bourbon,
a barrel of rye,
nine gallons of rum,
q  ten gallons of gin,
ten gallons of rye whiskey,
ten gallons of sweet wine,
six gallons of wine, sixteen gallons of gin,
twenty barrels and kegs, twenty spigots and faucets,
one hundred dollars worth of damage to doors and windows as well as coffee and candy spilled on the floor. 

All told, they did what amounted to more than $400 worth of damages, including destroying a barrel of molasses by mistake and scattering a barrel of fish.  One person remembered an alcohol-addicted man getting down on all fours to drink the liquor running in the street.  The crowd then moved on to seven other shops, eventually convincing all to sign the pledge.

Most of the town’s attorneys banded together to defend the women, who were found NOT GUILTY in a criminal trial.  Page, apparently represented by Winchester’s leading Democrat attorney and former Circuit Judge Jeremiah Smith, then filed a civil lawsuit against several of the women and their husbands, though Amanda Way was not among them.  After an extended trial, the jury ruled for the plaintiff and awarded $140 in damages, collected by selling property confiscated from the defendants.

The sensational case was widely reported at the time, for example, the Free Democrat of Indianapolis, April 6, 1854.  Though today largely forgotten, the guerrilla tactics employed by the women of Winchester were used nearly fifty years before Carry Nation would employ similar methods against the saloons of Kansas.

The temperance sentiment remained relatively strong in Randolph County for many years.  In dusty ledgers and decaying envelopes in the Randolph County Courthouse, the story of the “Page Liquor Case” is told in detail, reminding all of the early activities of one of Randolph County’s most prominent women.  Most who have studied Way in the years subsequent to her death have noted that her quiet manner and interest in Gospel ministry masked her contributions to the women’s suffrage movement.

Last year, Randolph County petitioned the state for a Historical market for Lee L. Driver.  Because only one marker at a time can be requested, Driver was chosen first.  Amanda Way will be the next marker requested and her contributions to the rights of women will be publicly documented. 

AND NOW, (with a nod to Paul Harvey) THE REST OF THE STORY! 

On the spot of the original Page Grocery  – and a possible site for the new Page Historical Marker………CLICK ON THE BARREL!

Research material for this article was provided by the Randolph County Historical Society and by information found in the Randolph County Courthouse, Winchester, IN. – Greg Hinshaw

Combined from articles by Greg Hinshaw and Marjorie Birtwhistle from the Randolph County Historical Society Newsletter with added information by Jean Moorman Brindel.

Photo of Amanda Way and additional article provided by Monisa Wiesner – Curator of the Randolph Historical Society.