Born and educated in Iowa, the dynamic Grace Wilbur Trout proved a successful activist, orator, and politician. She even found time to publish a novel in 1896. Mrs. Trout led the fight to force Illinois to grant its female citizens the right to vote in national elections. And in 1913, it became the first state east of the Mississippi River to do so. This victory took place seven years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave suffrage (voting rights) to all American women. All in all, Mrs. Trout won national prominence for her efforts. Dating from about 1916, the photo above shows her as she marched in a Washington, D.C., suffrage parade.
One political tactic that Mrs. Trout oversaw consisted of speaking tours by automobile. After jolting over highways that were usually no more than dirt roads, Mrs. Trout and other female activists would drive into an Illinois community, park in the town square or on a prominent street corner, and then give speeches from their cars. Local residents would be expecting them since these events were arranged in advance. Sometimes, a mayor would even introduce the visitors.
The inexhaustible Grace Trout proved instrumental in yet another Illinois campaign: The triumphant endeavor to make the state guarantee equal rights for its women. In 1921, however, she and her husband, George, moved to Florida, where she continued her activism. Among many other achievements, she served as the first president of the Jacksonville Planning and Advisory Board and as the president of the Jacksonville Garden Club. The American Legion even honored her as “the most public-spirited citizen.”
The Trouts lived in the wonderful old River City mansion, Marabanong. This Queen Anne-style masterpiece is located on the waterfront near the south end of the Hart Bridge. It delights the eye with its cupola, octagonal turret, fancy wooden shingles, arched windows, third-story balcony, and two-story veranda with gingerbread trimmings. A large swimming pool was built in 1922 and decorated with Venetian lanterns. The couple also maintained a zoo there, entertaining their numerous Northern visitors with such animals as deer, pheasant, peacocks, and South American crocodiles.
In 1955, Mrs. Trout passed away at the age of 91. As summed up by the website “Oak Park Tourist,” she had earned the praise as being “The Woman Who Never Fails.” Her Jax home, by the way, remained in the Trout family until 1983, after over a century of ownership by members of the same clan. Marabanong still stands today. Appropriately, its name comes from a New Zealand Maori Indian word for “Paradise.”
~written by Glenn Emery
Image is from The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest in Oak Park, Illinois.