October 30, 2017
By Eileen Casey
New York State, including the East End of Long Island, is celebrating the centennial of the woman’s suffrage movement that resulted in American women being granted the right to vote. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920.
Recognizing this momentous occasion has had many local historians, descendants, scholars and authors, including NYU Journalism Professor Brooke Kroeger, author of “The Suffragents: How Women Used Men To Get the Vote,” and Antonia Petrash and Arlene Hinkemeyer, offering lectures on local history and publishing new books. An exhibition is also on view at the Tom Twomey Gallery at the East Hampton Library. Ladies of Liberty – A Musical Revue, presented by the Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton Historical Museum, League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, and Southampton Arts Center, will celebrate the milestone through song on Sunday, November 19 at Southampton Arts Center. Valerie diLorenzo will headline, with Amanda Borsack Jones as Musical Director.
One local suffragist recognized with a historical marker in front of her home (117 Main Street, across from the First Presbyterian Church) is Mae Groot Manson (died 1917). Manson spent summers in East Hampton with her husband, Thomas Lincoln Manson. The couple believed in the suffrage movement and their activism was instrumental in bringing the cause from Seneca Falls to Long Island. A portrait of Manson done by John Singer Sargent in the late 1800’s as a house warming gift is now considered by some to be a masterpiece.
The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons recently celebrated with a re-enactment of a suffrage rally that took place in East Hampton in August of 1913, beginning in front of Manson’s home. The march showcased the efforts of women who marched 100 years ago from New York City to Albany and Washington, DC in an effort to bring the right to vote to women.
According to Petrash in her book, “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement,” American women fought for 72 years for the right to vote…”Many remarkable ladies on Long Island worked tirelessly during this important civil rights movement. The colorful and exceedingly wealthy Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was undoubtedly the island’s most outspoken and controversial advocate for woman suffrage. Ida Bunce Sammis, vigorous in her efforts, became one of the first women elected to the New York legislature. Well-known Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, worked with countless other famous and ordinary Long Islanders to make her mother’s quest a reality.” Petrash is also the President and founder of the Long Island Woman Suffrage Association, Inc.
For generations of young women who may not have paid this extraordinary achievement much attention, think again – what we consider a constitutional right which many ignore by not voting was achieved by the hard work, dedication and commitment of ordinary women who insisted women’s voices be heard.
For those that have witnessed a female candidate run for the office of President, remember perhaps the most recognizable name among suffragists, Susan B. Anthony, it is not just a coin! Anthony was born in Massachusetts and devoted her personal and professional life to women’s issues. Although not at the Seneca Falls convention, Anthony’s tireless devotion to women’s rights led her across the country to activate women to seek the vote. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, they published “The Revolution,” which became “the official publication of the National Woman’s Suffrage which they had formed to fight for a federal constitutional amendment giving all women the vote.”
According to the New York State Suffrage Commission, “Based in Rochester, Anthony continued to travel and campaign for suffrage; she also worked with Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper on their History of Woman Suffrage. In 1892, she became president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, an office which she held until 1900. That same year, the University of Rochester was forced to accept women students after Anthony raised $50,000 for that cause, including the value of her own life insurance policy. Anthony continued to serve as an inspiration for the following generation of suffragists who won the vote in an amendment they named after her, the Susan B. Anthony amendment, in 1920.”
It is remarkable that 100 years later that there are still components of our society where women’s voices are ignored on both a national and international level, however, in the U.S. a woman’s right to vote and have a say in who leads our country is a hard-won battle that should never be forgotten or taken for granted.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the “ABC In Concert” weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.
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