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May Wright Sewall, Henry Ford Peace Expedition scrapbook

 Collection — Volume: V118
Identifier: V118

Scope and Contents

This collection includes a scrapbook compiled by May Wright Sewall during 1915-1916 regarding the Henry Ford Peace Expedition. It includes telegrams, letters, an itinerary, the ship's newsletter, "Argosy", and her daily writings to "fellow Hoosiers" back home.


  • 1915-1916


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

May Wright Sewall (1844-1920) was born in Milwaukee and was the daughter of Philander W. Wright, a teacher, and Mary W. Wright. In 1866 she earned a bachelor’s degree and in 1868 she earned a master’s degree from Northwestern Female College (Northwestern Female College was later absorbed by Northwestern University).

In 1872 she married Edwin W. Thompson and moved with him to Indianapolis. He died in 1875. She became interested in women’s suffrage and attended a national convention in 1878. In 1880 she married Theodore Lovett Sewall, who was the head of a boys classical school in Indianapolis. With him she founded and then headed the Girls Classical School. For years the school was one of the three leading girls schools in Indianapolis.

She was a prominent supporter of suffrage leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She helped found the Indianapolis Equal Suffrage Society in 1878, and in 1881-83 she led a campaign that narrowly failed to secure women’s suffrage in Indiana. From 1882 to 1890 she was chairman of the executive committee of the National Woman Suffrage Association. In 1888 Sewall and Frances Willard took charge of a convention held in Washington, D.C., to mark the 40th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention. From that meeting emerged the National Council of Women (of which Sewall was president from 1897 to 1899) and the International Council of Women (of which Sewall was president from 1899 to 1904). In 1889 she joined in organizing and was elected first vice president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. During 1891-92 she traveled extensively in Europe to build support for the World’s Congress of Representative Women, of which she was chairman, to be held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Sewall’s later years were devoted principally to the cause of peace.


"Our Founder". The Indianapolis Propylaeum. Accessed July 9, 2016.

Historical Note

The Henry Ford Peace Expedition began in December 1915 after Rosika Schwimmer, a Hungarian pacifist and feminist, convinced Henry Ford to finance a peacekeeping venture through noncombatant countries during World War I. Ford invited 100 delegates, including May Wright Sewall, from Indianapolis, Indiana. In a letter to Sewall, Ford stated "I realized that the world situation demands immediate action, if we do not want the war fire to spread any further". On December 4, 1915, the steamship, S.S. Oscar II ported out of Hoboken, New Jersey. On the outset, guests suffered from sickness, including a flu outbreak. Ford became ill and left the ship on December 18, 1915 at Oslo, Norway. The Expedition continued for another year after his departure. The media dubbed the trip as the "Ship of Fools" mocking the mission as "guided by an amateur". Ford continued to fund antiwar events and advertisements after the Expedition.


Information found within collection.

"Henry Ford Peace Expedition Records" finding aid, Swathmore College Peace Collection, Swathmore College. Accessed August 16, 2018.

"Henry Ford Peace Expedition Collection" finding aid, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University. Accessed August 16, 2018.

Watts, Steven. (2005) The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 231.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 volume)

Language of Materials



This collection includes one scrapbook.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.
May Wright Sewall, Henry Ford Peace Expedition scrapbook
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.