Riponites may know of Carrie Chapman Catt either as a Ripon native and as a key figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

   Possibly less known?

   The fact that her beliefs that helped change America may have been rooted in her childhood in Ripon, or that those same beliefs continue to shape America today.

   Few locally understand her role as well as Ellen Sorensen of Ripon. Though most prominent in her involvement in Drug-Free Communities of Fond du Lac County, she’s also heavily researched Catt’s life.

   And, as Sorensen explained, Catt’s childhood in Ripon may have directly influenced her opinions on equality for women — views that made her a leader in the Suffrage movement.

   Sorensen grew up two blocks south of Catt’s childhood home. That house — which still stands — initially piqued her interest.

   “And the fact that having grown up in Ripon, we weren’t taught about” Catt’s role in national politics, she added. “... I realized that we really had the architect of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, [who] was born in and lived in Ripon until she was 7 years of age.”

   The notion that Catt’s early years may have started her on a path toward becoming that architect is extensively documented in what Sorensen describes as Catt’s “prolific”writings, in which “she talks a lot about her childhood and the disparities that she’s seen between who could do what. She was very much aware of inequities and a lack of fairness, even in her childhood.”

Read the full story in the June 6, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.