Suffolk County Historical Society’s Book & Bottle Series: The Suffragents, November 16, 2017

November 16, 2017

The publicity the Suffolk County Historical Society produced for this event was really fine. My Google Alert flashed notices from all over the local press, no little thanks to Wendy Annibell, who has charge of programs and public relations for the society in addition to her role as head research librarian.  It even brought these online and print valentines from Newsday in its Sunday paper four days ahead of the event. And then newspaper’s book editor, Tom Beer, tweeted a little gross overstatement on Monday about the one who is not the great John McPhee:


Way too nice.


The museum was built in the 1930s but the historical society got its beginnings in the 1600s, when the realization came that none of the county’s important documents were being preserved. Victoria Berger, the historical society’s executive director, explained all this in her introductory remarks.

She’s pictured here, just before the event, posed in front of the two vitrines of suffrage ephemera on display to highlight Suffolk County’s best known suffragists, including the hiker-in-chief, “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones.

Wendy, who had valiantly joined me in wrestling with the AV connections (an invariable frustration), had to head home before I could snap a photograph of her, but she deserves one, too. She was my primary contact in the run-up to the event.

Wendy also needs a major shout-out for curating the museum’s New York centennial suffrage exhibit, “Votes for New York Women.” She told me how much she enjoyed putting it together. Not only that, but a great find was unearthed in the process: “As librarian,” she writes, “I recently discovered the actual NY amendment document in our collection. How cool is that?”

Very. This I really need to see.

Here are Wendy’s shots of the exhibit and its poster. (Beautiful posters come out of this place, by the way.)

And here I am when the AV finally started to work after a 90-minute challenge.

My smile reflects the sense of victory when the battle was brought to a close by Zack, the historical society’s IT savior. Thank you, Zack.

I talked about the Men’s League, generally, who they were, how they organized, what they did and why it mattered. Then I  focused in on the men of Long Island who were deeply engaged in the suffrage movement or at least were signatories to the Men’s League membership roster. That list includes Stephen Hewlett of Roslyn/Port Washington, James Lees Laidlaw of New York City and Sands Point, Ward Melville of Brooklyn and Stonybrook, and James Norman De Rapelye Whitehouse of Brookville.

The audience seemed very engaged and asked excellent questions. One that comes up repeatedly and came up again last night  is about why the states of the West were so far ahead of the East in granting women the vote. The correct answer is beyond my expertise, but I’ve asked those more expert than I and a number of possible  explanations have been offered:  The West needed women in the West and this was an acknowledgment of their importance and a  recruitment tool; that the West was more open to new ideas than the more staid, set-in-its-ways East; that the role of women in the West was, by necessity, more progressive. If I get a definitive answer, I’ll update this.

We sold a few books to the benefit of the historical society, which is stocking copies for its online store, too. And the Long Island Expressway was uncharacteristically cooperative on the way home, getting us back to the city by 9pm. Chapeau to the husband person, who has been chief chauffeur and all-around helper on the suffrage trail all fall.

Next stop: Albany for the Researching New York conference November 17. I’m presenting a paper that the Gotham Center for New York City History blog published on November 16. It’s about the role of the (male) editorial elite in the suffrage campaign in the days before blatant liberal media bias became a thing. (Postscript: the Albany log is posted here.

National History Day contestants, please read this before you contact me.

The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2018 Sally and Morris Lasky Prize, presented by the Center for Political History.  See Summer Camp Newsletters” and Facebook posts from book-related appearances. Reviews, notices, and articles about my books are under their titles here. My articles are here.

Upcoming Events: September 23: Bentson Dean’s Lecture, College of Arts and Science, New York University. October 17: Suffragents Panel, National Archives, Washington DC.  [2020] March 27 Ephemera Society of America, 40th annual conference, Old Greenwich CT. June 4-6Métiers et professions des médias (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles),”  Université de Lausanne (Switzerland).

Happened 2019: Exhibition Opening Remarks: “Women Get the Vote: A Historic Look at the Nineteenth Amendment,“New York Society Library. February 23: Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices,” UCLA Law School, Los Angeles.  March 13: The Suffragents,” Scarsdale Woman’s Club, Scarsdale NY. March 24: League of Women Voters, Albany County at the Bethlehem (NY) Public LibraryMarch 25:Judges, Lawyers, and Women’s Suffrage: Recognizing the Men Who Stood with Women on the Front Lines,” Gender Fairness Committee of the Third Judicial District, CLE, NY State Courts at SUNY Albany Law School, Albany NY. May 15: “The Republican Suffragents,” National Women’s Republican Club, New York City. August 7:  Panel, “From Emma Goldman to the Marketplace of Ideas: Marking the 100th Anniversary of Free Speech at the Supreme Court.” (page 40) AEJMC, Toronto. August 14: Webinar, National Park Service.