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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > Indianapolis Propylaeum Indianapolis Propylaeum

Indianapolis Propylaeum Indiana State Historical Marker side 1Indianapolis Propylaeum Indiana State Historical Marker side 2

Location: The Propylaeum, 1410 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana)

Installed: 2009 Indiana Historical Bureau, Indianapolis Propylaeum, and Indiana Women's History Association

ID#: 49.2009.4

Text

Side one:

Led by suffragist and educator, May Wright Sewall, the Indianapolis Propylaeum incorporated as an association in 1888 to provide educational opportunities and a meeting place for cultural and civic clubs. In 1891, the association opened its original building on North Street, one of the first in the U. S. financed entirely by women stockholders.

Side two:

The Propylaeum association organized the Indianapolis Local Council of Women, 1892, to provide a forum for city women’s clubs engaged in civic reform. The association acquired this property in 1923. Built circa 1891, the structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. As of 2009, the Propylaeum continued to host events here.

Keywords

Women, Buildings & Architecture, Arts & Culture

Annotated Text

Indianapolis Propylaeum

Side one:

Led by suffragist and educator, May Wright Sewall,[1] the Indianapolis Propylaeum incorporated as an association in 1888 to provide educational opportunities and a meeting place for cultural and civic clubs.[2] In 1891, the association opened its original building on North Street,[3] one of the first in the U. S. financed entirely by women stockholders.[4]

Side two:

The Propylaeum association organized the Indianapolis Local Council of Women, 1892, to provide a forum for city women’s clubs engaged in civic reform.[5] The association acquired this property in 1923.[6] Built circa 1891, the structure was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[7] As of 2009, the Propylaeum continued to host events here.[8]

Notes

1. “Mrs. May Wright Sewall: Social Reformer and Suffragist Dies in Indianapolis at 76,” New York Times, July 24, 1920, p. 9 (accessed September 24, 2008 through ProQuest Historical Newspapers) (B071366).

For biographical information see: Clifton J. Phillips, “Sewall, May Eliza Wright,” Edward T. James, ed., Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume III (Cambridge, 1971), 269-71 (B071370); Ray E. Boomhower, But I Do Clamor, May Wright Sewall, a Life, 1844-1920 (Zionsville, Indiana, 2001) (B070182).

2. “Certificate of Incorporation and Articles of Association of the Indianapolis Propylaeum,” June 6, 1888, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 10, Folder 2 (B071305); May Wright Sewall, “Address,” Indianapolis Propylaeum: Description of Building and Account of Dedicatory Exercises Including Historical Sketch and President's Address (Indianapolis, 1891), 26-27, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 10, Folder 3 (B070194); May Wright Sewall, “President’s Address,” Annual Reports, 1892, p. [7] (B071287).

3. Annie Ames Spruance, “Sketch of the Dedicatory Exercises,” Indianapolis Propylaeum: Description of Building and Account of Dedicatory Exercises Including Historical Sketch and President's Address, (Indianapolis, 1891), 8-15, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 10, Folder 3 (B070194); “They Are Women All: Not ‘Ladies’ or ‘Females,’ If You Please,”  The (Indianapolis) Sun,  January 28, 1891, p.1 c. 3. (B070235).

For clarity, the Propylaeum building and the Propylaeum association need to be distinguished in the marker text and materials. The early recorded sources of this organization demonstrate efforts to separate the building from the association. The term “association” appears in numerous primary and secondary sources as “Propylaeum Association” or “Propylaeum association;” also “Association” or “association.” Following is a representative list of sources covering the years 1892-1941:

Annie Ames Spruance, “Sketch of the Dedicatory Exercises,” Indianapolis Propylaeum: Description of Building and Account of Dedicatory Exercises Including Historical Sketch and President's Address, (Indianapolis, 1891), pp. [8], 24, 25, 31 (B070194);

Sewall, “President’s Address,” Annual Reports, 1892, 7, 8 (B071287);

Roll Call, 1894-1895, Local Council of Women, digital images, Indianapolis Council of Women, Indiana State Library, Box 5 (B071438);

Roll Book, 1904-1912, Local Council of Women, pp. 4, 8, 36, 46, 66 digital images, Indianapolis Council of Women, Indiana State Library, Box 5 (B071438);

Indianapolis Star, January 19, 1917, p. 16, c. 4 (B070369);

Indianapolis News, May 15, 1917 (B070203);

Indianapolis Star, August 30, 1917 (B070362);

Indianapolis News, January 2, 1923, p. 17, c. 7 (B070305);

Caroline Dunn, A History of The Indianapolis Propylaeum (Indianapolis, 1938), 8, 34, 37 (B070190);

Indianapolis News, May 20, 1941, p. 11, c. 2 (B070364).           

4. Indianapolis Propylaeum: Description of Building and Account of Dedicatory Exercises Including Historical Sketch and President's Address, (Indianapolis, 1891), 11-14, 16-17, 23-24, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 10, Folder 3 (B070194); Bertha Damaris Knobe, “Club Houses for Women,” The Woman's Home Companion, January 1899, p. 13, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 29, Folder 1 (B071300).

5. The early in the Propylaeum association’s history, it initiated and assisted several organizations; the Indianapolis Council of Women was among the most important and active. In May 1891, May Wright Sewall, in her President’s Address, stated that the Propylaeum association should consider the direction of its work and suggested that it was in a position to give “direct assistance to all other organizations in our city.” Sewall noted the formation of the National Council of Women, 1888, and its goal “of bringing together in one organization, organizations of women that were working to attain divers ends by divers means.” She stated that a “local council of women” could accomplish the same goal. Sewall, “President’s Address,” Annual Report, 1891, pp. 11-12 (B071284).

In May1892, Sewall noted the Propylaeum stockholders’ approval  to “take the initiative in organizing a Local Council.” As a result, the first meeting of the Executive Committee of the Local Council of Women was held at the Propylaeum on North Street, May 3, 1892; the Directors of the Propylaeum offered free use of a parlor to the Council for its meetings. Sewall, “President’s Address,” Annual Reports, 1892, 11 (B071287).

In May 1894, President Sewall stated that the Propylaeum’s “own work can be measured only by taking into account the work of the organizations which have resulted from its initiative. Of these the Local Council of Women of Indianapolis and the Industrial Union are the two most important.” Sewall, “President’s Address,”Annual Reports, May 1893 and May 1894, p. 15 (B071288).

A year later, Sewall continued to emphasize the Local Council’s importance. In May 1895, Sewall listed five charitable organizations that were given reduced rates at the Propylaeum including the Local Council. “The Directors . . . feel that the Propylaeum serves the public through serving these organizations. Especially is this the attitude of the Propylaeum toward the Local Council, since all of the fifty organizations comprised in the Local Council are aided by any aid that the Local Council itself receives. Sewall, “President’s Address,” Annual Reports, 1895, pp. 8-9 (B071289).

Other organizations agreed with Sewall’s statements. The Local Council of Women was listed as “one of the notable outgrowths. . . of the Propylaeum association.” The Sunday Sentinel Magazine Department, April 6, 1902, Sec. 4, p. 2 (B071417).

The sentiments of Sewall and The Sentinel are supported by the activities undertaken by the Local Council which were key Progressive Era reforms. Circa 1916, the Local Council was described as “a born agitator. It has agitated for better streets, for sanitary side-walks and clean streetcars; for better ventilated and more sanitary public school buildings, and for clean grounds surrounding them; for the raising of the age of consent from eleven years to sixteen years; for a consideration of the conditions under which clerks in department stores, and women and girls labor in factories; for a woman factory inspector in order that the environment of all females working in factories may be made more respectable and conducive to morality. This organization, from its beginning, has worked for the abolition of wine-rooms, the sale of cigarettes to minors and the removing of screens from saloons.” Emma Miller Farrabee, “History of the Indianapolis Local Council of Women,” circa 1916-1917, p. 48 (B070520).

More accomplishments of the Local Council were listed in 1932: “Police Matrons; Juvenile Courts; Women on School Board; Woman’s Suffrage; Curfew Hour; Industrial Training in Public Schools; Compulsory School Attendance; Appointment of a Fair Proportion of Women on Board of State Instruction; Separation of Sexes in Prisons; Vacation Schools, Public Playgrounds; Improvement of Sanitary Conditions in School Yards; Pure Milk; Pure Foods; Child Labor; Temperance Legislation; Smoke Abatement; Factory Supervision; Public Health Nursing; Elimination of Marathon Dances. . . .” “Material Compiled Concerning: Indianapolis Council of Women,” (Indianapolis: Weimer Typesetting Co., 1932), pp. 3-5 (B070519).

In 1926, the name of the Local Council was changed to the Indianapolis Council of Women. The records of the Council are located in the Manuscript Section, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

6. Letter, Joseph C. Schaf to Indianapolis Propylaeum, June 30, 1923, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 30, Folder 15 (B071298); “Propylaeum Association Buys Residence Property,” The Indianapolis Star, April 21, 1923, p. 2, c. 1 (B070304); “Moves to New Quarters,” Indianapolis News, August 1, 1923, Indianapolis Propylaeum Collection, Indiana Historical Society, Box 10, Folder 20 (B071347).

7. United States Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, National Register of Historic Places Inventory: Nomination Form, “Indianapolis Propylaeum,” May, 1973; endorsed by the National Park Service, June 1972 (B070241).

8. The Propylaeum, http://www.thepropylaeum.org/, accessed (October 31, 2008)  (B071423).