Event, Notice, Speech, Suffragents

“The Suffrage Centennial Conference on Long Island at Walt Whitman’s Birthplace” – The MargaretFuller blog

November 15, 2016

The Suffrage Centennial Conference on Long Island at Walt Whitman’s Birthplace


November 2016

Antonia Petrash created a wonderful women’s suffrage conference with her team. She said that Lauren Kushnick of the New York Council for the Humanities, now Humanities New York, graciously held her hand as she applied for a Vision grant to support this conference. Lauren came forward to support these participants as they create events and programming for 2017. Humanities New York can even offer planning grants for your planning meetings for your women’s rights and suffrage events. Please contact Lauren. She is here for you!

Natalie Naylor presented important information on Long Island’s women suffragists. I look forward to reading her book which includes Margaret Fuller. Antonia’s daughter, Katherine Manning, was so helpful as we put our materials together for the conference. She presented a lovely program as a teacher to get children interested in the suffrage history. Author Brooke Kroeger added a crucial yet overlooked aspect of the women’s suffrage history: the men who marched with the women and voted for women’s suffrage in New York State in 1917. This will be in her new book.

After a well-deserved break with much information to integrate, Arlene Hinkemeyer spoke about the significance and work of the League of Women Voters. One could see her joy and passion for what she is doing and presenting. I spoke on the Margaret Fuller Historical Marker application to the Pomeroy Foundation and the collaborative efforts of the Beacon, New York coming together for the dedication. Then I led into the Margaret Fuller Memorial Tablet and Pavilion at Point O’Woods, Fire Island, New York, which was dedicated on July 19, 1901 and, later, swept into the sea in a terrible storm in 1913.I am working with interested others at Fire Island to restore the Memorial in some way where people can come and be present honoring.

Finally, Ellyn Okvist spoke on her extraordinary activities for women’s rights and suffrage at Lake Ronkonkoma, Long Island. She creates parades in traditional women’s suffrage clothing and reenactments with antique cars. Ellyn comes from an old Swedish lineage on Long Island and works for the documentation of the suffragettes and soldiers from her community buried in the local cemetery. She beams with such a light shining to do wonderful things!

There was a wonderful lunch provided. We could sit outside in Walt’s gardens or inside discussing our excitement and new plans for 2017. Some went on a guided tour of the Birthplace. I was able to get Antonia to sign her beautiful book on the Long Island suffragists, which I am eager to read! In the major interpretive center of the historic site, I was particularly moved by  the segment on how the Spirit moved in Walt Whitman’s life. He was brought up by two broad-minded parents who were spiritual and questioned any religious hierarchy. Walt was drawn to the Transcendentalist principles of individual self-reliance and the mystical connection with nature. Yet he was very grounded in his humanity and inclusiveness. He felt that we were all connected and related. This was the heart of him and his groundbreaking poetry.

Walt Whitman greatly admired Margaret Fuller as a journalist and writer. He read her front-page articles in the New York Tribune as he published his newspaper on his printing press in Brooklyn. Walt was deeply saddened when Margaret tragically died in a shipwreck off of Fire Island. As Ted and I explored Huntington, Long Island, for supper this evening, we came upon the recent historic marker of the Press Club of Long Island commemorating the continuing publication of the Long Islander newspaper which Walt began in a barn in Huntington.

When Walt lived and worked in Brooklyn, A. Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott, and Henry David Thoreau, who lived with Emerson’s brother’s family on Staten Island and tutored his children, would visit him and walk with him.

I feel so fortunate to be blessed to deepen my relationship and understanding of this extraordinary circle of intuitive colleagues and friends who brought a deep spirituality and substance to living in the world beyond the five senses. I applaud their courage and strength in the midst of mainstream religious fervor and the detrimental drawbacks of the Industrial Revolution. We needed their insights and revelations then as we need them now in our current strife and chaos.

There are those of us who are called to carry on their creative and spiritual work as though they are alive and breathing and moving through us. We are blessed by their beauty and depth of being. They guide and drive us to be our best in the world to serve.