Helen M. Gougar
John D. Gougar
Biography of Helen M. Gougar
MRS. HELEN M. GOUGAR -- The most thrilling, inspiring fact revealed by a careful study of the phenomenal agitation of the past thirty years, familiarly recognized as the "Woman Movement," is knowledge of the remarkable manner in which representative women of every government and clime have been roused from their selfish apathy and led to voice their demand for liberty; not a mere selfish personal liberty, but liberty, first, of developing to the utmost limit of usefulness the individual powers, and second, the liberty of opportunity for service to the general weal. Of this army of laborers the subject of this sketch, MRS. HELEN M. GOUGAR, of Lafayette, is a notable example. While in her demand for liberty MRS. GOUGAR rises above all sectionalism, yet she is a genuine Western woman by birth, education and temprament.
Born in Hillsdale County, Michigan, July 18, 1843; surrounded by five sisters and one brother, never have we enjoyed a glimpse of a more useful, unselfish childhood that that revealed in a private letter written by an older sister of MRS. GOUGAR's. The little, merry executive HELEN was sent to the district school until she was twelve years of age, when she entered Hillsdale College, remaining there three years. The spring previous to her sixteenth birthday MISS HELEN accepted the position of assistant in the free schools of Lafayette, where she remained four years, meanwhile being promoted to the position of principal. During these years the strictest economy was practiced, and the plainest, but most exquisitely neat costumes were worn, in order that a portion of the salary might be used in the education of her younger sisters. Speaking of that time MRS. GOUGAR says: "Although the matter of dress was considered of such vital importance at that time by my girl friends, yet I do not ever remember to have passed an unhappy moment because of my plain attire." Nor need she, when in neatly made muslin dresses, white aprons and linen collars, the "beaux" and "belles" ever paid silent homage while she talked. "My innocence of worldly criticism and censure was my shield; and today I am glad of any sacrifice made then, as I think with pride of my cultivated, self-poised, independent sisters than whom but few families can point to a greater average of talent."
December 10, 1863, when in her twentieth year, MISS JACKSON was united in marriage to JOHN D. GOUGAR, a young and rising attorney at law, of Lafayette, and a gentleman of superior education, being a graduate of Heidelburg. He has several times suffered severely from a nervous affection of the eyes, and as his wife read to him hour after hour, from his law books and legal documents, she was unconsciously laying up for herself treasures of knowledge which have been of great benefit to her in her work. MRS. GOUGAR is a born philanthropist, as a record of her work for the insane, the fallen, the poor and the suffering, abundantly indicates. As a result of what might be termed incidental work as compared with her labors in behalf of temperance and woman suffrage, MRS. GOUGAR has secured the removal of twenty-three insane women from the Tippecanoe almshouse to the State asylum, where they received skillful treatment, some of them being fully restored in mind. A life-long friend of MRS. GOUGAR's gives us the following study of her characteristics: "She is pre-eminently an intellectual woman. Her predominating qualities of mind are quickness of apprehension, penetration, self-reliance, fearlessness, enthusiasm and will. Combined with these strong intellectual gifts is a burning love for humanity, which causes her heart to throb always in sympathy with mankind. Subjects of trivial importance, which absorb the attention of many women, consequently receive from her but a passing notice. Her mind instinctively grapples with the great social and philanthropic problems of the day. Whoever would direct her from these, or lure her into lower realms of thought, can have no lasting place in her friendship or esteem. Upon these great questions she thinks with an independence and fearlessness that startle the boldest minds. Nor does she think without a purpose. Her mind is distinctively practical, and is forever asserting itself in the formation and execution of noble plans. As an organizer she has few superiors. Thoroughly understanding human nature, she selects her co-workers with unerring certainty, and rarely fails to inspire them with her own ardor. When a plan has been once formed her entire resources are taxed, if necessary, to effect its execution. All things are made to work to that end. Nothing is spared that stands in the path between her and her object. "Never fail" is her motto, and from the uniform and remarkable success which has attended her undertakings, some of which have seemed utterly chimerical to her friends, she certainly honored the motto. Her talent for business is remarkable.
Mind and not impulse directs in all of her transactions. With the eye of an experienced financier, she scans every feature of a business venture, and seldom makes a mistake. No detail is forgotten, no contingency is overlooked. A great worker herself, she demands earnest work of all who enter her service. The fact that though exacting she is universally beloved by her employees, proves that her exaction's are just, and that she possesses tact and executive ability of high order. Prompt, systematic and untiring, she has been able during the past few years to do what but few persons would attempt to undertake, and what has surprised her friends and wrought consternation among the opponents of the reforms she advocates. Lecturing almost daily, traveling weary distances to fill lecture engagements, she has also, almost unaided, founded, managed, edited, and placed upon a sound financial basis, a really excellent newspaper, Our Herald, devoted to the two interests to which she has consecrated her life, temperance and woman suffrage. In fertility of invention and resource, we are not acquainted with her equal. No combination awes her. No surprise causes her to lose her balance. Nothing disconcerts her. She is a born agitator, leader and reformer.
True and lasting in her friendships, she is bitter and dangerous in her animosities. As witty, light-hearted and buoyant, as she is earnest and dignified, she is a favorite in every society. The poor and distressed wait upon her footsteps, for she has been to them a ministering angel. Liberal and progressive in her religious views, her love of justice and devotion to moral principle are unswerving. As an orator she is graceful, easy and wholly free from affectation. She speaks without manuscript or notes, and apparently without effort. Her graceful form, becoming attire, glowing face and trumpet-like voice prove potently winning. In speech she is direct, fluent, original, earnest, and at times impassioned. Expression and appropriate gesticulation enforce her words. Wit and sarcasm, like swords in jeweled scabbards, are ever in her sheath, and woe to the man against whom they leap forth. Striking and original expressions abound in her utterances. Pathos comes at her bidding. Tears, laughter and the sure endowment of applause evince the power and effect of her speeches. Few orators have so complete control over a popular audience as MRS. GOUGAR, and we know of no one whose speeches have had such a decisive and converting power.
As a writer she is characterized by the same qualities which distinguish her as an orator. Fearlessness, directness, originality, point, mark everything she writes. She composes with great ease and rapidity, and seldom stops to correct or copy. From what has been said we can see how natural it was that she should become the powerful and conspicuous foe of the liquor interest. The issue involved in the campaign of 1882, in Indiana, was the adoption or rejection of the prohibition and woman suffrage amendments to the State Constitution. The Republican Party favored the submission of the amendments to the people. The Democratic party opposed such submission. It was the most bitterly contested campaign ever known in that State. CAPTAIN DeWITT WALLACE, a prominent lawyer of Lafayette, a life-long friend of MR. and MRS. GOUGAR, and a brave advocate of woman's enfranchisement, was the Republican candidate for the State Senate, in the Lafayette district. MRS. GOUGAR entered the struggle with all the energy of her nature enlisted in the campaign, addressing large audiences in almost every precinct in behalf of the legislative ticket. Owning and editing Our Herald, a newspaper with a wide circulation, she fearlessly advocated through this medium also her cause. Unable to meet argument with argument, and stung to madness by the startling blows dealt by this new champion, the liquor interest resorted to calumny, and attempted to destroy her influence by assailing her good name. For five different years, 1787-'82, the temperance people of Lafayette, mostly women, remonstrated in vain against the licensing of beer and gambling stands at the county agricultural fairs. The executive committee of the Tippecanoe County Agricultural Association paid no attention to the remonstrances which were perseveringly presented to them in person, saying that the remonstrances were presented too late, and that the women, any way, did not contribute to the industries of the county, and therefore should have no voice in the matter.
The next year the women presented the remonstrance, more numerously signed than ever, six months before fair time. The "executive" member of the executive committee promised to take the matter into consideration, but he fulfilled his promises by licensing the usual beer stand, before any of the temperance people knew what he intended to do. He and his supporters claimed that the fair could not be a pecuniary success unless the usual drinks were obtainable on the grounds, and that without them there would not be an income sufficient to pay the premiums. The license itself brought in $1,000.
MRS. GOUGAR, who had been delegated to present the remonstrance and confer with the committee, upon learning this turned immediately away, saying, "Gentlemen, we must then fight the devil with fire." This exclamation, uttered at the point of high tide, became the war-cry of the temperance army, which now proceeded, by a special appeal to the respectable element of the county, to make a difference of more than $1,000 by pledging themselves to remain away from the fair as long as liquor was sold or gaming carried on there. MRS. GOUGAR addressed the people of the county by speeches upon the rostrum and in the pulpit in every neighborhood, and secured over 5,000 signatures to the pledge of total abstinence from fair attendance as long as liquor was sold upon the grounds. The admission fee at the fair being 50 cents, this 5,000 made a difference, for every day's non-attendance on account of the pledge, equal to several times the revenue from the liquor license. Consequently the Agricultural Association lost heavily, and were unable to pay their premiums. The succeeding year they tried again with like disaster, and by this time they learned the lesson which was designed to be gently taught them from the first. They "reformed" and since then have held their fairs with greater success than ever before.
As soon as the campaign was over and she could locate the slanders made against her, she instituted a suit in the circuit court of her county, for defamation of character, and after a protracted and most searching investigation, she recovered a verdict, and afterward a judgment for $5,000 damages. Her vindication was so complete, and the defeat of her accusers so crushing, that no appeal was taken from the judgment.
It stands today a monument to the actual purity of a life whose every action during all the years of early girlhood and maidenhood was submitted to the most searching investigation. At the conclusion of the trial, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Blue Ribbon Club, of Lafayette, tendered a grand reception to MR. and MRS. GOUGAR, at Pythian Hall, which was crowded to its utmost capacity by the best citizens. Speeches were made, flowers presented, and congratulatory resolutions were passed, a beautiful garland being presented to MR. GOUGAR for the noble, self-poised, philosophic manhood he had evinced during the cruel trial. The reception was a veritable ovation, and a fitting tribute to the worth and distinguished ability of a brave and noble woman.
Since the close of the trial, MRS. GOUGAR has achieved a succession of triumphs. She has enlisted in her work with renewed activity, and delivered more than 200 lectures per year. She has twice visited Europe, making a close study of the laboring classes, he condition of the Irish race under English rule, and has written for the American press, especially the Chicago Inter Ocean, her impressions thereon.
She has able espoused the cause of Home Rule upon the platforms as well as with her pen. To her is accorded the greatest single victory yet won on behalf of suffrage for women, viz.: securing municipal suffrage for the women of Kansas. The bill granting MRS. GOUGAR caused to be introduced in the Kansas Legislature during the winter of 1885. She watched its every interest in the minutest detail and was rewarded by seeing her measure become a law at the next regular session two years after.
MRS. GOUGAR is a born politician, and besides taking an active part in her own office, she has influenced her State Legislature to adopt several beneficent measures. Twice she has been called upon to address special committees of the United States Senate, and to her belongs the honor of having addressed the Legislatures of New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas and Iowa.
Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe
JOHN D. GOUGAR, a prominent attorney at law, of Lafayette, has been a resident of Tippecanoe County since October 12, 1841, at which date his parents settled here. His father. DANIEL GOUGAR, was born in Pickaway County, Ohio, his father having come from eastern Pennsylvania in the early days of that county. The father of the subject of this sketch was married to HANNAH DUNKLE, a native of that county, whose parents were also from eastern Pennsylvania. DANIEL GOUGAR and family came to Tippecanoe County by team in 1841, and located near West Point in Wayne Township, the father having bought land from the Indian Reserve. Here DANIEL GOUGAR mad his home until his death which occurred December 21, 1850. His widow is still living, aged seventy-three years, and is making her home with her son, JOHN D., in Lafayette. In politics DANIEL GOUGAR was a Democrat, and was an active and public-spirited citizen.
JOHN D. GOUGAR lived on the home farm in Wayne Township, until 1851, when he went to Heidelberg College at Tiffin, Ohio, from which college he graduated. He was a student at this college four years, when he returned to Lafayette, and in 1859 he commenced the study of law with the firm of CHASE & WILSTACH. He was admitted to the bar in 1861, and in June 1862, he commenced the practice of his profession with JASPER M. DRESSER, with whom he was associated until November, 1863, since which time he has practiced alone. In politics he was a Democrat until Lincoln made the race for President, since which time he has affiliated with the Republican party.
Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe
© 2001-2009 Adina Dyer