Suffragists marching, probably in New York City in. New York, 1915. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress
With New Yorkers and the nation showing up to the polls in record numbers this year, it’s hard to imagine a time when being female made this illegal. Nearly 102 years ago to the day, Catherine Ann Smith was among the first women to vote in the state of New York, as the New York Times reminded us. Ms. Smith joined Mary Waver at the front of the line, both cast their ballots in the early hours of November 5th, 1918.
Pre-election parade for suffrage in NYC, in which 20,000 women marched. 1915. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress
This August marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave some women the right to vote. In New York, a hotbed of suffragist activity in the mid 19th- and early 20th-century, women won the vote a few years earlier in 1917. While New York women were on the frontlines of the suffrage movement early on, one event served as a major turning point in winning the vote. On October 23, 1915, tens of thousands of New Yorkers dressed in all white took to Fifth Avenue, marching roughly three miles from Washington Square to 59th Street. It was the largest suffrage parade to date, with city officials at the time estimating between 25,000 and 60,000 participants.
Screenshot of the 19th Amendment Centennial StoryMap, courtesy of Village Preservation
Next week, on August 18th, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Though the fight to give women the right to vote was a national effort, much of the movement had roots in New York City. And like most 20th-century advocacy efforts, a lot of that action was centered downtown. To mark this momentous occasion, Village Preservation has created an interactive 19th Amendment Centennial StoryMap that showcases the remarkable number of people and places in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and Noho that played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement.
Courtesy of FDR Four Freedoms Park Conservancy
A massive field of sunflowers has been installed at the monumental staircase at FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. The park’s new exhibit, which was created together with the New-York Historical Society and the League of Women Voters, comes ahead of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment’s ratification and aims to symbolize the continued push for full equality today. The installation measures 12 feet by 100 feet and features text from the amendment, which was ratified on August 18, 1920: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
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New York City women’s march, October 23 ,1915. Photo: Library of Congress.
2020 is an American presidential election year, and whether or not we finally see a woman in the country’s highest office, this year officially marks the centennial of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Among the celebrations we’ll see throughout the nation, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Monumental Women will be honoring the life and accomplishments of Susan B. Anthony in Madison Square Park on Friday, February 14th, a day before the pioneering feminist’s 200th birthday on February 15th. Brewer also issued a proclamation declaring February 15th as Susan B. Anthony Day in Manhattan.
Susan B. Anthony Day and more celebrations of women’s right vote, this way
The original design. Photo by Tia Richards for 6sqft
Last year’s unveiling of designs for the first statue in Central Park’s 165-year history that depicts real historic women–a sculpture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony–was met with mixed reviews: Why didn’t the statue, set to be dedicated in August of 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of nationwide women’s suffrage, include any of the many African-American women who aided in the cause? Today it was announced that a redesigned statue honoring pioneering women’s rights advocates will include Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth, an escaped slave and abolitionist who joined the fight for women’s rights.
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Photo by Tia Richards for 6sqft
The official design of the first statue of non-fictional women in Central Park was unveiled last summer. The statue, a sculpture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, is set to be dedicated on August 18, 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote nationwide. Terrific, right? Not completely. Because, as the New York Times informs us, some women’s rights advocates feel the statue doesn’t show the whole story. One complaint: Stanton and Anthony were white. Included in the statue’s design, a list of women who aided in the cause contains a significant number of African-American women. Why weren’t any of them chosen to be the face of women’s contributions to social equality?
Gloria Steinem weighs in, this way
Members of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage March in a 1915 Suffrage Parade, via the Carrie Chapman Catt Papers at Bryn Mawr College
James Lees Laidlaw, the president of the National Chapter of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, wrote in 1912, “The great educational work in the woman’s movement has been done by women, through a vast expenditure of energy and against great odds. There is still work to be done and hard work. We men can make it easier and happier work if we join in it, and no longer stand aside, as too many men have done, leaving the women to toil and struggle, making up in vital energy what they lack in political power.”
Thanks to an ongoing great expenditure of energy, American men and women will vote tomorrow. In our own time, there is still work to be done, and hard work, in the fight for equality, justice and universal dignity. The history of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, founded in New York in 1909, offers the reminder that we all can make it easier and happier work if we join in it, and provides a stirring example of how anybody might offer organized, meaningful support to a vital cause.
The Story of Support Continues