When the 19th Amendment finally passed the Senate, Marie Stuart Edwards, Peru, IN said: "... we rejoice that this has come just now to the women of America at the dawn of this wonderful reconstruction period. Women are to “sit in” at the remaking of the world. I believe women will bring to our body politic an independence of action, a clarity of thought, unhampered by precedents, and an inspired desire to vote for the best interests of human society. We are calling on all women of the state to study, to carry through their plans for educational work along civic and citizenship lines. We are urging them to put loyalty to humanity, loyalty to country and to state above all ideas of party loyalty, since these new voters have yet to participate in party councils.
“I am glad to see this amendment pass. I am anxious to see it ratified. Most of all, am I anxious to see this great new force in action.
Marie Stuart Edwards, 4 Jun 1919

Thursday, June 24, 2021

A Circus Suffragist: Aileen L Tinkcom

One of the goals in rediscovering the women of Miami County who were the first women to vote, was to find our circus suffragists.

from the archives of the Circus Hall of Fame
We had learned that Circus Hall of Fame inductee, May Wirth
had been a member of the Barnum & Bailey Circus Suffragettes, an association that had been reluctantly, at first, accepted into the fold of the National American Women Suffrage Association, following their tea 'party' crashing incident in April 1912.  We also learned that Sells-Floto[1] bragged that though none of their women were suffragists they “could have the vote or anything else they desired… For the Sells-Floto circus depends greatly upon its women.  More than one branch of the big show is run almost exclusively upon its women, and run perfectly.”

The article mentions[2]

       Lucia Zora[3], who has charge of training all the elephants.

      - Mrs. William Curtis, who personally supervises every inch of the wardrobe and designs the costumes, along with putting on a show now and then;

  - Rosa Rosaland, world champion horse-to-horse somersault rider, in charge of all the equestriennes in the show.

  - Mrs. Charles Luckey, in charge of all the aerial act; and

  - Last but not least Mrs. Rhoda Loyal, horse trainer

 There was really little to go on specific to Miami County, Indiana.

In a previous article, Stacy Mize reported on Mabel Stark and Lillian Leitzel, both also Hall of Fame inductees.  A 2020 "Bandwagon" article by Kat Vecchio shared a picture depicting the 1912 Madison Square Garden meeting when Miss Suffrage was christened.  Lillian Leitzel appears to be on there.  So was Josie DeMott who may have made a passing appearance here. Otherwise we have been left to wonder about our local circus ladies…  Where were our Circus suffragists?

Circus women had broken society’s norms for what was expected proper behavior.  They were more liberated than other women, yet they remained voiceless legally, in spite of having proven time and again they could match their male counterparts.  The Sells-Floto administrators might have recognized their abilities and their usefulness but their women were still in the same predicament as all the others when it came to enjoying full citizenship rights.  They could not vote and so remained voiceless in government.  Their concerns over education for their children, healthcare and fair treatment in daily life etc remained in the hands of men who were not always willing to hear them, let alone listen.  They  too needed new laws.

It was while returning to the 1917 newspapers that I came across an article summing up the history of the Franchise League in Miami County and listing its members as of February 29, 1917[4].  Mrs. B E Wallace aka Florence Fuller Wallace was the first Circus connected name I recognized. 

I created a spreadsheet with all the names we have collected, in a similar way that we worked on the WWI doughboys.  One lady at a time I finally came to one that qualified as a bonafide Miami County Circus girl, Hagenbeck-Wallace diva, soloist Aileen Lowry Tinkcom!

She was born in Armagh, PA on May 15, 1890, daughter of James Johnston Tinkcom and Lydia Lowry.  She must have shown a talent for music early, as her father bought her a piano shortly before her 13th birthday. 


She attended the public schools of Indiana County, PA, including the Normal School and the Seton Hill Convent in Greensburg, PA.  It is unsure when she actually attended the

Three Arts Club[5]
in Chicago or when she sang with the Hagenbeck-Wallace shows but this is referenced in her obituary.[6]

Her father moved the family to Peru around 1909 when Ben Wallace hired him to manage his circus farms.  It may be when she sang with the Hagenbeck-Wallace shows but we still have not found the year she was with them.  One thing we could determine is that she was favored by[8] Florence Wallace, and was even considered a niece, although I have not been able to establish any family relationship. She attended many functions with her and seemed to be part of the "High Society" crowd.

James Tinkcom continued as farms manager even after Ben Wallace died (1921) and under the following owners.   In 1941, John Ringling North[9] put an end to the circus winter quarters located on the property Ben Wallace had purchased from Miami Indian Chief Gabriel Godfroy, but the land continued to be farmed. 

Aileen was well appreciated and joined other artists for special events, such as the Senger Dry Goods Store 1912 Spring fashion show.

In January 1919, Aileen performed with many others in a special 2 day-presentation featuring the Liberty Girls Victory Minstrels and others.  She was met with as much delight as anticipation.[7]

But it is her Woman’s suffrage activities I was looking for along with her Circus connection. Aileen would not have been gone from Peru all year anyway since the show returned in the Fall and stayed till early May.  Plenty of time to get involved.

At 26, Aileen was among the Miami County women who signed up to participate in the Chicago Suffrage Parade[10] in the summer of 1916[11]:

Mrs. J S Rizor,

Mrs. R F Hite,

Mrs. Frank Bearss,

Miss Lucy Bearss,

Miss Ada Brough,

Mrs. Charles Vance;

Mrs. Barkdale,

Mrs. L Gilbert,

Miss Parkhurst,

Mrs Parkhurst,

Grace Armitage,

Georgia Redmon,

Mrs. F M Stutesman;

Mrs. A Wertheim,

Mrs. Mills Hathaway,

Mildred Keyes,

Mrs. Allen Pumphrey,

Clara Edwards,

Lucile Edwards,

Mrs. Lou Cole,

Florence Levy,

Elizabeth McCaffrey,

Mrs. Joseph E Andrews,

Miss Gerhart,

Mrs. Harry L Miller,

Mrs. E H Gould,

Alice Puterbaugh,

Mrs. John Crume,

Mrs. Theo Ensel,

Mrs. J H Shirk,

Mrs. W L Booth,

Mrs. E W Shirk,

Clara Mowbray,

Eileen* Tinkcom,

Mrs R E Edwards,

Miss Lucy Klinglesmith,

Mrs. W A Woodring,

Miss O'Hara

40,000 women were expected and Indiana had been planning ahead of time to ensure everyone would have proper accommodations.  The weather did not cooperate and only 5,000 women braved the heavy rains.

In the words of Harriet Henton:

“The Indiana women, led by Miss Betsy Edwards of Shelbyville, first vice-president of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana, as the grand marshal, were in the first division of marches and presented a most notable showing.  Miss Edwards braved the storm in a white coat costume with the official sailor trimmed with its yellow band and her Indiana badge floating in the wind.  She carried the beautiful banner inscribed with “Indiana” in black lettering, which Mrs. Ovid Butler Jameson carried in the historic suffrage parade in Washington DC, two years ago.  On either side were her official aids:

Mrs. J H Shirk of Peru and Miss Adah Bush, of Kentland.

Mrs. Alexander Hugh Scott, of Indianapolis, as the standard bearer ad battalion leader, carried the pennant of the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana, with Miss Eldena Lauter, of Indianapolis, Miss Esther Griffin White, of Richmond, Mrs. J C McCain, of Ben Davis, Miss Clara Edwards and Mrs Theodore Ensel, of Peru as side marshals.  Mrs. Anna Dunn Noland, president of the equal Suffrage Association of Indiana, and Mrs. Kate Wood Ray of Gary, represented that society and Mrs. Ray carried the banner of the Civic Association of Gary.

Others in the Indiana division were Mrs. Richard E Edwards, of Peru, who has been chairman of the arrangements committee and who brought the largest delegation of the state from her little town…”[12]

What Harriet did not report but which is deeply endearing to circus loving people, is that Circus elephants were in the parade! and they carried the league's "planks".

Carrie Chapman Catt Papers

 In 1918, we find Aileen taking signatures in support of the Susan B Anthony Amendment on Nov 5, 1918, elections, at the polls.[13]

Under Marie S. Edwards’ leadership, in 1917-1919, the women of Miami County actively engaged in the cause.  They registered other women for war work as well as for membership into the Franchise League and to vote in the October Constitutional Convention that would be cancelled and it is easy to see that Aileen would be in the thick of things too.  They gave speeches to promote cooperation and support for the troops and for the Susan B Anthony Amendment. 

Aileen joined the Nineteenth Star Chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution after it was formed in 1922.  For a time she was even its Historian. 

Aileen and her parents continued to reside at Wallcourt, West of the Winterquarters until their deaths.

James was the first to die, on Sep 15, 1942.  Aileen followed on 28 Jan 1945.

Her mother Lydia died Feb 8, 1954 at the farm.  The line finished there but they had nieces and nephews who lived in the southern part of the county and still count descendants today.

All three were buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Research continues in the hope of finding a picture of our diva, Hagenbeck-Wallace principal soloist, Aileen Lowry Tinkcom.

[1] Marshalltown Evening Times Republican 26 Apr 1916, Marshalltown, IA

[4] The Peru Republican 29 Feb 1917, Peru, IN

[5] The Three Arts Club of Chicago, an organization founded in 1912 by social activist Jane Addams and more than 30 other female civic leaders who wanted to change the composition of the male-dominated art world by encouraging women to pursue careers in the arts—eight years before women had the right to vote.  https://3arts.org/pages/history - https://ia801703.us.archive.org/29/items/nby_168751/three_arts_club.jpg

[6] The Kokomo Tribune 30 Jan 1945, Kokomo, IN

[7] The Logansport Pharos Tribune 23 Jan 1919, Logansport, IN; The Logansport Daily Tribune 24 Jan 1919, Logansport, IN

[8] The Logansport Pharos Reporter 20 Jun 1914, Logansport, IN

[9] The Rushville Evening Daily Republican 27 Nov 1941, Rushville, IN

[10] The Peru Republican 9 Jun 1916, Peru, IN

[11] The Peru Republican 2 Jun 1916,Peru, IN

[12] The Peru Republican 9 Jun 1916, Peru, IN

[13] The Peru Republican 8 Nov 1918, Peru, IN

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