Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This week's edition of the Niagara Falls Reporter features a story about Royalton's own Belva Lockwood, the first woman to run for the US presidency. A hard copy of the Reporter can be had for free at newsstands throughout Niagara County or it can be read online at www.niagarafallsreporter.com.

Here's the article...

By Bob Kostoff

One of the most remarkable and well-documented women of Niagara County was the redoubtable Belva Bennett McNall Lockwood, the first female to run for U.S. president.

I have written about Belva several times, most recently in mentioning the presidential elections of 1884 and 1888, when Buffalo's own Grover Cleveland was also a presidential candidate.

An old article in the Iowa State Register newspaper of August 1888 provided some interesting information about Belva's running mates. Usually running mates, as well as most vice presidents, do not make lasting impressions on the public consciousness, so any historical tidbits are welcome.

Belva's charge at history, while well-known, could stand a brief refresher course. She was born Belva Bennett on Griswold Street in the Town of Royalton and, when 18 years old in 1848, married Uriah McNall of nearby McNall's Corners. Uriah died before Belva was 22 years old. She took over the family farming and sawmill business. Despite success in running this business, she decided to become a teacher and eventually became Preceptress of the Lockport Union School from 1857 to 1861.

Then she decided to become a lawyer, opening a practice in Washington, D.C., even taking some cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, In 1868, she married prominent dentist Ezekiel Lockwood.
Belva was active in the suffragette movement and stood strongly for equal rights. Therefore, she was instrumental in formation of the Equal Rights Party, which nominated her to run for president in 1884. The party chose as her running mate Marietta L. Stow, a successful newspaper publisher in San Francisco. She was a native of Webster, just east of Rochester, N.Y.

They garnered about 5,000 votes in that election, even though women could not vote at that time.

A copy of the Iowa newspaper containing the account of the 1884 nominating convention was obtained in 1988 by Mrs. Norma Wollenberg, a Gasport resident interested in Belva's career.

The party next decided to emphasize the "equal" part of their name and opted to have a male running mate for Belva in the 1888 election. To choose the vice presidential candidate, the party sent out a flyer to members entitled "the National Equal Rights Party, composed of men and women."

The flyer stated, "The success of that movement was a marked and memorable one and it has been determined by the party to continue the race in 1888. But as we are an Equal Rights party, it has been claimed that we should have a man on the ticket and the following names are suggested."

The flyer named Belva to head the ticket and suggested Alfred H. Love, of Philadelphia, for her running mate. The flyer added, "In order to arrive at a fair expression of opinion, it is desired that you write your preference on the opposite page of this sheet and return at once in the enclosed envelope." It was signed by N.S. Chapin, Chairman, General Committee, Marshalltown, Iowa.

The party faithful favored Love, giving him 316 mail-in votes, with a scattering of other names provided. One wag even suggested the name of Frances Folsom Cleveland, whom President Cleveland married while in the White House. Another name mentioned was James Blaine, the Republican who opposed Cleveland for the presidency in 1884.

In an interesting aside, it was once reported that Blaine, when deciding to seek the presidency, visited Belva to solicit her support and was shocked when she told him she was going to run for president herself.

Love was president of the International Peace Union and operated a merchant firm in Philadelphia handling cotton and woolen goods. He also headed the American Literary Union.

Standing firmly against slavery, Love long campaigned for equal rights, for temperance and religion, for the native Americans, and was also firmly against the death penalty.

The Equal Rights Party put up a spirited campaign but lost. Cleveland, running with Allen G. Thurman, won the popular vote, but Republican Benjamin Harrison took the presidency with the electoral vote. Cleveland came back to recapture the White House four years later.

The U.S. Post Office honored Belva by issuing a stamp in her honor on June 18, 1986, something Mrs. Wollenberg had campaigned for.