The right to vote has always been a sacred one for many Americans, but all Americans haven’t always had the right to exercise it. In Pennsylvania, women could not vote until the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which makes a 1922 article about an elderly Hellertown woman casting her ballot all the more poignant.
The article “Hellertown’s Oldest Voter in 90th Year” published in the Nov. 14, 1922 edition of The Morning Call doesn’t specifically mention the lengthy battle for women’s suffrage that had finally ended just two years earlier, but notes that 90-year-old Isabella Hess (who is referred to as “Mrs. Edward Hess” in the story) had witnessed some of the “greatest transitions” in world history during her long life. Presumably one of them was the women’s rights movement that would transform American society in the 20th century.
Hess was a descendant of early Saucon Valley settler John Philip Boehm, according to the story, who built the first house in Hellertown (which is still standing and is located on Main Street in the borough).
After voting a straight Democratic ticket on Nov. 7, the story noted that she was a guest at her son Edward’s home in Leithsville, where he resided in the historic Leith homestead.
According to the entry for Isabella (Diehl) Hess on the website FindAGrave.com, she was born on April 25, 1832 in Pennsylvania and later married Edward Hess (1830-1887), who was a Union Colonel of Volunteers who led Pennsylvania’s 174th Regiment during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865).
The Hesses–who are both buried under an obelisk in Hellertown’s Union Cemetery–raised six children, including Edward (1875-1960), who was the youngest.
Isabella Hess died on May 29, 1925 at the age of 93, just a few years after women earned the right to vote and she was recognized as the oldest voter to exercise it in Hellertown.
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