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A live weekly radio adventure through Indiana history with host Nelson Price. Airs live on Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET at WICR 88.7 fm in Indianapolis.

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March 25, 2023

Women of historic Irvington

The first Girl Scout troop in Indianapolis. The first African American woman to graduate from an Indiana college. A suffragist who became a top leader of women's groups in the state. And the founders of the first Black sorority at a predominantly white college in the country.

All of those women and girls had a deep connection to Irvington, the historic neighborhood on the eastside of Indianapolis. As Hoosier History Live salutes Women's History Month, they are among the women whom we will spotlight when Nelson is joined by Sampson Levingston, founder of Through 2 Eyes, a history storyteller who does popular "walk and talk'' tours through diverse Indianapolis neighborhoods, including Irvington.

Sampson has researched the historic women and girls whom we will describe, including Indianapolis Girl Scout Troop 1. The first Girl Scout troop in Marion County was formed in 1917, just five years after the organization had been founded nationally. The local scouts initially got together in private homes. They eventually began meeting regularly at Irvington Presbyterian Church, where an Indiana historical marker commemorates the trail-blazing troop.

Another trail-blazer, Gertrude Mahorney, became the first African American woman in Indiana to graduate from an Indiana college when she received a bachelor's degree from Butler University in 1887. For more than 50 years, from the 1870s into the 1920s, Butler was located in Irvington, where Gertrude Mahorney lived. She went on to receive a master's degree from Butler and became a teacher at schools in Ohio and Indiana.

Butler also was the alma mater of Grace Julian Clarke (1865-1938), a suffragist who became influential across Indiana and beyond. In addition to working for years for passage of the 19th Amendment that extended voting rights to women, Grace Julian Clarke headed up several statewide women's groups, including the forerunner of the League of Women Voters of Indiana. Our guest Sampson Levingston has created several YouTube videos related to his walking tours, including a video about Grace Julian Clarke, OUR WOMEN ARE TOUGH, who lived in Irvington for much of her life. In addition to her tireless advocacy on behalf of women, she also was an international peace activist.

Sampson has led more than 400 history walking tours since 2020. He also has been a previous Hoosier History Live guest, including on a program about Indiana sites listed in The Green Book. It was an annual guidebook for African American motorists from the mid-1930s through the mid-1960s, an era of widespread discrimination.

In the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan had a stranglehold on Indiana politics, its downfall was hastened with a deathbed account of an Irvington woman, Madge Oberholtzer. With Sampson, we will spotlight Madge Oberholtzer again. She was the focus of a Hoosier History Live show in 2021 when Nelson's guest was Charlotte Ottinger, the author of a deeply researched biography, titled Madge, published by the Irvington Historical Society. Madge Oberholtzer had been raped by D.C. Stephenson, the grand dragon of the KKK; her brave account of his brutality resulted in his arrest.

Madge Oberholtzer had attended Butler at its Irvington campus, as did seven African American women who became trail blazers in 1922. They founded Sigma Gamma Rho, the first Black sorority in the country founded on a predominately white campus. Sampson Levingston will share insights about the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority sisters during our show.

In 2022, more than 6,000 members of Sigma Gamma Rho from across the country attended events in Indianapolis to mark the sorority's 100th anniversary. During the gathering, an Indiana state historical marker was unveiled in Irvington to commemorate the founding of the sorority.




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Roadtrip: Schroeder Saddletree Museum in Madison

Guest Roadtripper and food and travel writer Jane Simon Ammeson, who can be followed at Travel/Food, tells us that "If you're one of the majority of Americans who don't know what a saddletree is, that's understandable”. Though once saddletrees were of significant importance, let's face it, who now has ever heard of such a thing. But consider that Madison, a riverport city in southeastern Indiana on the Ohio River, once had 12 saddletree manufacturers including what is now the Schroeder Saddletree Museum at 106 Milton Street, the last saddletree factory in America.

"Madison's entire downtown is a National Register historic district, consisting of over 1,700 contributing structures. Really, if anyone was going to have a saddletree factory open for tours where visitors can see the original machinery and watch the manufacturing process that produced wooden saddle frames, horse collars, clothespins, and other products, then it would certainly be Madison."

And we're not horsing around!


Hoosier History Live is an independent production group

We probably can't say often enough that we are an independent production group, and that we make our own business and editorial decisions! Please don't necessarily contact the radio station for help. Our contact information is on our website at www.hoosier history live.org, where you can also sign up for our free weekly enewsletter. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter at Hoosier History Live. Look for our yellow logo to make sure you are at the right place! 

Would your business or organization like to offer prizes for the History Mystery on air question? Your business or organization gets an on-air mention by Nelson! Prizes must fit in a standard business envelope, as they are "snail mailed" to winners. Email our producer at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org for more info.

Here's a marketing idea. Would your business or library or residence like to have a listening group to listen to the live show on Saturdays noon to one pm? It's a great way to get people involved. All you need is a listening device, such as a laptop or radio or cell phone, and a quiet place with chairs to listen, and someone to facilitate the group. As an example, before Covid there were listening groups at the Irvington Library and the Central Library in Indianapolis. 

This is an activity that you must organize yourselves! However, if you ARE hosting a listening group, email molly@hoosierhistorylive.org so we can promote it. This is especially a good activity for seniors.

Are you a restaurant near the University of Indianapolis on the south side, or is your restaurant downtown? Is your restaurant open Saturdays at 1 pm? Are you willing to offer a place for Nelson and guests to go lunch after the show? If so, please contact molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.


Power lunch at Don Gusto

Lunch after the "Funeral business evolution and civic involvement in Indy" March 18 show at Don Gusto Mexican restaurant on the northwest corner of S. Meridian and Hanna, near UIndy. Left to right are host Nelson Price, Julie Buchanan, Caran Keller, producer Molly Head, Scott Keller, and show guest Bruce Buchanan. 

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We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Kevin Murray
  • Susan Bielawski in memory of Jane Bielawski
  • Jill Lough Chambers
  • Sandra Hurt
  • Tom Swenson
  • Peggy Hollingsworth
  • Mike Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland 
  • Dr. William McNiece
  • Robin Winston
  • Ann Frick
  • James Fadely
  • In memory of William (Bill) Mihay by Bob Wakefield
  • Florence and John Stanton
  • Aleta Hodge
  • Lorraine Phillips Vavul
  • Margaret Smith
  • Jane Hodge
  • Jeff Price

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer


Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support!

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, The Indiana Album, Monomedia, Indiana Historical Bureau, Indiana Landmarks, Henri Pensis, Kielynn Tally, Genesis Brown, Leticia Vasselli, Heather McIntyre, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution at the yellow button on our newsletter or website. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in the show, contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org

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