Harriet Wiseman Elliott (1884 – 1947) was truly a woman ahead of her time. Her students would say that she not only taught history, but made it.
|Harriet Elliott in the midst of State Normal students, ca. 1920|
|Young Harriet Elliott|
As Harriet’s parents believed in women’s education, she was sent to Hanover College in Indiana. It did not take long for her to establish herself as a rebel. She campaigned against rules that she thought were absurd, such as the living and working circumstances in the dormitories and the poor condition of local prisons.
While earning her Master’s degree at Columbia University, Harriet became more passionately interested in suffrage. It was at a college lecture on women’s rights that she would meet Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, a leader in the national suffrage movement. After Dr. Shaw’s talk, Harriet waited backstage to speak to her. They immediately discovered that they were political kindred spirits and became lifelong friends. It was Dr. Shaw who suggested that Harriet’s true calling was to study, and eventually teach, political science.
In April of 1917, the United States entered into the First World War. Miss Elliott realized that with the world changing so profoundly, so must her teaching methods. Instead of using textbooks for lessons in current events, she asked that her students prepare for class by reading the daily paper. She believed that this was the best way to show that “government [was] a living subject.” Miss Elliott took every opportunity to educate her young students about women’s equality in a wartime nation, offering a program in June 1918, titled “Women and War.”
|Dr. Anna Howard Shaw speaks at Commencement, 1919|
|Miss Elliott waits with her students for election results, 1940s|
Following in Miss Elliott’s footsteps were thousands of alumnae – many becoming active in national, state, or local politics, the League of Women Voters, or other community organizations. Perhaps more than anything – that was her greatest legacy.