Women’s History Month is coming to an end, but we still have some interesting history to share with you! Today’s “Little Chats” interview was with Sarah Alice Sloane, who worked for the Ohio Brass Foreign Trade (essentially, international sales) department. It may be useful to read the interview (included below) before reading this post.
Although she wasn’t born in Mansfield, Sarah Alice Sloane was a dedicated Mansfield woman, and participated in and made her mark in Mansfield’s community in many ways.
As with many of our “Little Chats” interviewees, she was an Ohioan, born and raised. She was born in Ashland County to Harrison A. and Anna Maria (Clark) Sloane on 28 April 1879. Harrison was born in Ashland County, but Anna had been raised in Mansfield, and they were married in Richland County 18 March 1875. Their first child, Benjamin Howard, was born about a year later. In total, they would have seven children: Ben Howard, Mary Ethel, Sarah Alice, Rollin Clark, Clarence (who died shortly after his birth), Florence Lyle, and John Beaird.
In the 1880 census, when Sarah was just about a year old and the youngest child at the time, the family was living in Mohican, Ashland, and occupied a farm. In addition to the five Sloanes, there were also two “domestics” and a boarder living in the household.
By 1900, the family had moved to Mansfield, although Harrison was still listed as a farmer. Ben was no longer in the household, having married and moved to Lorain, and Rollin had similarly moved on. Younger siblings Florence and John were still at school, but Mary and Sarah had begun pursuing their own careers: Mary as a milliner (women’s hat-making and/or selling), and Sarah as a stenographer at Ohio Brass, a position she held at a minimum beginning in 1899, based on a Mansfield City directory entry from that year.
Sometime around 1904, Harrison packed up the rest of the family (Anna, Florence, and John) and moved to Youngstown to pursue a work opportunity there. Sarah remained in Mansfield to continue her work at Ohio Brass. Unfortunately, in 1907, Harrison became sick with typhoid fever, and he died.
The family returned to Mansfield, and in 1908, Anna, Florence, John, and Sarah were all living together there, and John was also working at Ohio Brass (precisely what department or position he held was not listed). About seven years after Harrison died, Anna also passed away, in 1914, and sometime shortly after that John left Mansfield to pursue his career, leaving Florence and Sarah together in Mansfield. They shared a home for a number of years as Sarah pursued her career at Ohio Brass.
As previously established, Sarah Alice Sloane began work at Ohio Brass in or before 1899, when she would have been twenty years old, and she began work as a stenographer. Based on her interview with Nita Branson, it does not seem that she had much formal education beyond high school, although she may have taken stenography classes in high school or at the local business college. Regardless, she progressed through the ranks of the department, from stenographer to sales order clerk, from sales order clerk to assistant department head, and eventually she was the head of the sales order department for foreign sales. She retired from the company in 1947, with almost 50 years of experience there, and having worked at the company through both World Wars. In her retirement she continued to be close with her family. Her brother, John, had settled in Arizona, and she would go out to visit with him and his family, and those and other family members would come to Mansfield to visit with her as well.
A Peek at the Ohio Brass Cafeteria
Making her Mark in the Community: Women’s Voting, and the Friendly House
In addition to her career, Sarah was active in the community, certainly by the 1920s if not much earlier. In the fall of 1921, just a year after the 19th amendment was passed allowing women to vote across the United States, Sarah was the president of a Republican Women Voters club, which met weekly in the lead-up to the election to hear from the candidates. The group organized a women’s voting registration drive to encourage all the women in Mansfield to register and vote in the election, exercising their rights under the law. Notably, this was the first local election in which women were permitted to vote– 1920 was the first presidential election, but there was not a local election in that year.
Later in her life and career, we again see Sarah’s leadership and involvement in the community. It seems highly likely she was more involved in the community than we have a good record of, because by 1937 she had been elected the vice president of the Board of Directors of the Friendly House, a position to which she was re-elected, and in which she occasionally served as acting president.
The Ohio Brass Girls
Sarah’s particular story is interesting for a number of reasons, but she was far from the only woman who worked for the Ohio Brass Company. And while her position was still relatively office-based, many women who worked for Ohio Brass worked in the factory itself. In particular, it seems that in the Malleables division, the Core Department was a particular home for female employees, as shown by a dedicated issue of the O.B. Observer in 1929.
As with many companies of the time, Ohio Brass strove to provide good facilities and social opportunities for its employees, as evidenced by their new cafeteria as shown above and by their participation in industrial league sports. The industrial leagues were not just men’s teams–there were women’s teams as well, when there was interest in them. Ohio Brass’s women’s bowling teams were especially successful in 1929, winning the championship, and the same year the company was working to start up a women’s “kittenball” (an early name for softball) team as well.
By the mid-1920s there were enough women working for Ohio Brass, across the entire company and not just in the office positions, that Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kelley King (the president of the company) began hosting an annual party for the female employees of the company to thank them for their important contributions to the company. The first such party was hosted in 1924, and about 40 women attended, including Sarah herself, who had been working for Ohio Brass for approximately 25 years at this point. These were just women who worked at the factory themselves–not wives of male employees.
Ohio Brass “Girls” at Kingwood
The parties continued to be an annual tradition, and grew over time. Even in 1925, at just the second party, there were reportedly over a hundred women present–which suggests that the first party probably was not attended by all the female employees at the company. In 1929, over 125 women were in attendance at the annual Kingwood party.