The Western Illinois Museum is pleased to present the unexpected story of the trailblazing woman known by all as, Aunt Josie. This year during Heritage Days, we celebrate the region’s legal tradition with a program about Macomb’s first female judge. The program will take place following the parade on Saturday, June 24th at 11:00 am at the Western Illinois Museum. It is free and open to the public.
History records Josie Westfall as the founder and matron of the McDonough County Orphanage. The program, created by Jeff Kellogg as documentary theater to be read by museum volunteers, explores Josie’s often overlooked role as Macomb’s City Judge. What makes her accomplishment compelling is that the election held on June 1, 1914, is the first in which women in the state of Illinois could vote –albeit only for non-constitutional offices. With the passing of the Illinois Municipal Voting Act, women in Macomb cast their first vote for a female city judge, another first. Unseating the incumbent, an educated and practicing lawyer, and efforts to overturn the election suggest the suffrage question was alive and well in 1914 Macomb. We’ll leave it to you to decide if she was a suffragette.
In hindsight, Illinois’ voting act is considered an important step in the country passing the 19th amendment. As the anniversary of secured women’s voting rights approaches, the stories of those who worked at every level illustrate how minds and hearts were pursued to create positive change.
The Western Illinois Museum is located at 201 South Lafayette Street, one block south of Macomb’s Courthouse Square. For more information contact the museum at 309-837-2750 or visit www.wimuseum.org.