As influential Hoosiers such as Herman B Wells and Hoagy Carmichael are often the first to come to mind, many influential Hoosier women are easy to forget.
The Office of the Bicentennial is working to change that by sponsoring research into prominent Hoosiers who have had a lasting effect on Indiana University.
IU junior Alexandra Schrader-Dobris, a Mary Brown Craig intern for the office since 2017, has been conducting historical research about IU female faculty at several IU libraries. Much of her work involves examining primary literature about May Wright Sewall.
Sewall was an American reformer focusing on education, women’s rights, and the pacifist movement. She was also a member of the suffragette movement and one of the founders of the Art Association of Indianapolis, which later became known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art. A supporter of the arts, Sewall was a founding member of the John Herron Art Institute which became the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
Schrader-Dobris said Sewall has left a notable mark on Indiana history, and her legacy can be seen with visible landmarks to this day.
Schrader-Dobris has also established a historical marker honoring Sewall. Upon completing her research for the Office of the Bicentennial on Sewall, Schrader-Dobris submitted a proposal for a historical marker through the Indiana Historical Marker program. The marker was approved in 2018 and installed in fall 2019 in Veteran’s Memorial Park in Indianapolis.
Schrader-Dobris said the Indiana Historical Bureau hasn’t dedicated many markets to women, so Sewall’s marker is an important step for Hoosier women’s history.
“I hope the marker brings public awareness to all the profound and impressive accomplishments Indiana women have contributed to our state’s history,” Schrader-Dobris said.
Schrader-Dobris said women like Sewall could inspire future generations of Hoosier women in their careers, volunteer work and hobbies that may better the world.
“Women are often rewritten out of history and it is important for their voices to be heard,” she said.
But the work does not end here. While Schrader-Dobris was able to establish a marker in honor of May Wright Sewall, she encourages the historical bureau to honor more Indiana women and women of color. In addition to discussing the importance of honoring notable Hoosier women in history, Schrader-Dobris advocated for the importance of humanities research in general.
“Humanities research is necessary because it encourages people to analyze the world and consider how history, art and literature impact human interactions and social experiences,” she said.
Schrader-Dobris has also contributed to a collection of blogs for the IU Bicentennial website, represented IU at Hoosier Women in STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, and presented research at the Indiana University Women and Gender Studies Conference.
She said she hopes to leave a legacy on not just Indiana University but the state of Indiana by establishing a historical marker in a highly visible area of Indianapolis and helping raise awareness of notable Hoosier women and the value of humanities research.