Dr. Frances Roush Sutter 1871 – 1953

Dr. Frances Roush Sutter
Photo courtesy of Shelby Museum

Dr. Frances Roush Sutter was a physician, surgeon and neurologist in Shelby from 1899 to 1923,1 in a time when few women went to college, let alone studied medicine. But what many may not know is the legacy she and her husband left to the citizens of Shelby.

Frances was born to George W. Roush (1843-1922) and Sarah Catherine Holtz (1852-1927) on the old Holtz farm five miles southeast of Shelby. Her brother, Claude Sherland Roush (1878-1951) was born seven years later.

She graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music where she studied piano, but felt she could do more good as a physician. Frances graduated first in her class from the Woman’s Medical College of Cincinnati in 1896 and interned at the Presbyterian Hospital in Cincinnati before opening her office in Shelby. She is believed to be the first female doctor in the city. Most of her patients were women. In those days, she maintained an office in town, but often visited her patients by horse and buggy.2

To the surprise of many in town, Frances eloped in Cleveland via an early morning train June 14, 18993 with John C. Sutter (1853-1931), 18 years her senior, a merchant and member of the Sutter Furniture family.

When John retired, the couple bought a winter home in Ortega, Florida; John died of pneumonia there Feb. 3, 1931. He was brought back to Shelby to be buried at Oakland Cemetery.

After John died, Frances began to travel with her cousin Mattie Garrett, of New Haven. In 1936, they spent six weeks touring Alaska and California.4

In 1937, Frances and Mattie embarked on a world cruise, encountering many adventures along the way. The trip took five and one half months, covering 30,000 miles. They sailed from New York Oct. 17, 1937 going to California via the Panama Canal to the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippine Islands. They spent two weeks touring the islands of Java and Bali, five weeks in India, Egypt, Italy, and sailed home via France to New York, landing March 15.5

While in Japan, they transferred ships from the President Hoover to the President Pierce for a larger room and better food.6 Family and friends did not realize they had changed ships when news broke that the President Hoover ran aground on remote Hoishota Island. About 600 passengers and 333 crew members were evacuated by small boat to the island. The President Pierce was among the ships diverted to take on the stranded passengers and crew. They took aboard about 200 crew members, baggage and mail, reuniting the travelers briefly with those who had served them for the earlier portion of the cruise.

In 1939, they made another six-week trip to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Frances transferred her home at 23 E. Main Street to the city Oct. 25,19497, to be used for city offices and meeting space. She continued to live in part of the house until she died. A member of many women’s groups in town, Frances also requested that a portion of the house be used as a meeting place for women in the community. The Shelby Museum was also housed there for a period of time.

The property was over 12,160 square feet, including an L-shaped building that wrapped around behind the Masonic building to Mohican Street.8 The house was built in 1876 by Valentine Sutter, son of Samuel Sutter, who came to Shelby from Switzerland in the 1840’s.9

The house was eventually torn down to make way for the city utility building, which houses the Shelby Museum and Sutter Roush meeting room.

Frances was interred with other family members in the Sutter Mausoleum at Oakland Cemetery.

Endnotes

1 Daily Globe, Nov. 2, 1953.

2 Daily Globe, Jan. 12, 1961.

3 Daily Globe, June 16, 1899.

4 Daily Globe, Oct. 1, 1936.

5 Daily Globe, April 1, 1938.

6 Daily Globe Jan. 14, 1938.

7 Daily Globe, April 24, 1950.

8 Daily Globe, Oct. 26, 1949.

9 Daily Globe, July 3, 1984.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Marvin De Very 1874-1945

One of the most ardent, well-spoken women in the Shelby suffrage movement lies in an unmarked grave in Oakland Cemetery.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Marvin was born to John Quincy Adams Marvin (1837 – 1927) and Mary Anita McDonald Martin (1823-1921) on Sept. 15, 1874. John was the son of Silas Marvin, who came to the area with his father Isaac, one of the earliest settlers, in about 1816.

In 1893, when she was just 19, she briefly printed and published the Shelby Weekly Echo, but halted production the next year because of ill health.

Lizzie quickly became involved in social issues, first with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, then as vice president of the newly formed offshoot Equal Franchise Association in 1912. Lizzie was one of about 60 Shelby women who led the effort to give women the right to vote. She began writing for the Daily Globe, covering visiting speakers, both for and against the suffrage movement. But, her writing had a decidedly pro-suffrage slant. Of anti-suffragist Miss Minnie Bronson, who visited Shelby in 1912, Lizzie wrote –

“The speaker gave a heartrending, tear-starting, hysteric-provoking picture of the disrupted homes to follow the enfranchisement of women. This was high class farcical comedy, in which even the leading lady must have found amusement. To say that homes would be disrupted, should one more of its members be given the power of self-government, is an insult to the manhood and a libel upon the womanhood of Ohio. The American home still stands in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington and California.”[1]  

Although Shelby men voted for suffrage, the state, as a whole, did not, and the 1912 proposed amendment failed. Lizzie and others began to visit nearby towns to speak about women’s right to vote. And she continued to write for the Daily Globe, covering debates. Well known anti-suffragist Lucy Price came to town in August 1913, claiming Shelby to be an anti-suffrage stronghold, with only three suffragists in the place. She claimed, “The men all seem to be antis or else on the fence waiting to learn what the women want.”[2]

Lizzie lashed out out in a rebuttal after Price’s speech –

“The anti suffrage speaker at the city hall Monday evening instead of presenting logical reasons why women should be denied the ballot, spent much of the time in eulogizing legislation on non-suffrage states and in veiled sarcasm toward the body of suffragists who were fair enough to add their presence to an exceedingly small crowd.”[3]

Lizzie remained an ardent supporter, helping to expand Shelby’s Equal Franchise Association to the Woman Suffrage Association of Richland County. She was a member of the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, which campaigned for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage. Nationally, women were given the right to vote August, 1920 through the adoption of the 19th Amendment.

A prominent Democrat in the community, Lizzie immediately filed a petition with the county board of elections as a candidate for Charter Commissioner, which would draft a charter form of government for Shelby. She was the only woman of sixteen candidates. Fifteen were to be chosen through voters. An unofficial vote had Lizzie winning the final spot over Howard D. Seltzer by one vote. A more careful review of the election figures showed that two votes weren’t counted for Seltzer.[4]  A recount was made, showing 153 votes for Lizzie, 154 for Seltzer and 155 for M. E. Roberts. Fifteen men had been chosen for the commission.[5]

Lizzie also ran for mayor in 1921 against three-time mayor, C.E. Morris. The illness of her mother, who died just a few days after the election, along with a lack of campaign funding, as well as the immense popularity of the incumbent, hindered Lizzie’s chances for election.[6]

In 1927, while in her 50’s, Lizzie married itinerant umbrella mender Charles De Very. Although she had known him for 5 years, the marriage was a short one. Lizzie filed for divorce after 3 months on the grounds of habitual drunkenness and extreme cruelty.[7]  The marriage ended in 8 months. The feud started with coffee grounds. De Very wanted her to reuse them and she threw them out. There were further allegations of De Very’s stinginess. A final fight ended with a call to the police about wife beating. In a very public trial, Lizzie claimed he was a drunk, and he claimed she was a gold digger. She asked for her name to be restored to Marvin but at the time of the divorce, she kept the De Very name for “business reasons.” She was awarded $500 alimony.[8]

Lizzie became a columnist for the Daily Globe in the early 1930’s, drawing from her memories of her younger days in a series called “Do You Remember.”  The popular columns included places of the past, like the fair grounds and roller skating rink, hotels, homes of citizens, and mentioned notable people. 

She remained loyal to the Democratic party, helping to form the Eleanor Roosevelt Club in 1936 to support those running for office.

In 1945, while walking along Mohican Street where she lived, Lizzie suffered a stroke. She was taken to the hospital, where she died the next morning, on May 1, 1945. Lizzie was 69 years old.

Endnotes

[1] Daily Globe, August 22, 1912

[2] Daily Globe, August 2, 1913

[3] Daily Globe, August 7, 1913

[4] Daily Globe, May 23, 1921

[5] Daily Globe, May 24, 1921

[6] Daily Globe, November 10, 1921

[7] Daily Globe, Feb. 15, 1928

[8] Daily Globe, June 4, 1928

Submitted by Christina Yetzer Drain