This Day in Dayton, 14 September
In September 1881 the Rev. James Omelvana, minister of the Presbyterian Church, challenged Helen Gougar of Lafayette to a debate. Helen Gougar was a social reformer who worked to improve the lot of the poor and of women in general. Gougar wrote a column in the Daily Courier for a while, then edited her own paper, Our Herald. She was acquainted with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The debate took place in the old brick two-story Presbyterian Manse across the bridge over the railroad south of town and was attended by about 75 people. The debate ended in a draw. Omelvana said he objected to women’s suffrage and women temperance campaigners because they fell short of the biblical ideal for womanhood, which required a woman to refrain from speaking in public but instead be a model wife and mother. Helen Gougar privately admitted later that she was disappointed with her performance. Shortly thereafter, on September 14, Rev. Omelvana, discovered that his opinion was not supported by other members of Crawfordsville Presbytery. He was the only one to vote against the strong temperance resolution passed that day. In addition, all ministers were encouraged to speak from their pulpits on the subject. (Old Lafayette, series on Helen Gougar by Kriebel, April 23, 1982, J/C).