This August marks the 100th anniversary of the “Women’s Vote” win that was an epic 72-year struggle, spanning two generations of women. Elizabeth Cady-Stanton kicked it off by writing the “Declaration of Sentiments” in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY, before her daughter Harriot Stanton-Blatch was even born. In 1902 the mom died (at 86 years old) and the daughter took the torch and traveled around the country speaking for Women’s Suffrage. Harriot spoke in Exeter, NH in 1902, as a matter of fact, when the women’s voting issue was going to be on the 1903 NH State ballot (it failed). The fight went on for almost another 20 years. Harriot was 64 when the 19th Amendment/right for women to vote was ratified by the 36th state, and was finally adopted.
Did you know that there are 29 statues and monuments in NYC’s Central Park? Guess how many are in honor of real women? (Alice in Wonderland does not count.) The answer is ZERO. Until later this month, that is. A giant bronze Suffragette memorial will be installed featuring Cady-Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth. Yep, three ladies sitting around a tea-table, getting stuff done. Many of you recognize the classic women’s circle motif.
This bronze gladdens my heart almost in the same way that a surprise re-naming of a building on the campus of Phillips Exeter Academy (a prep school in my town) did. There I was in the audience, listening to the usual opening day assembly, when the principal sprung that announcement upon us at the end. He said that the founder, John Phillips, had married a widow, Elizabeth, with some money. (And of course, in those times all the woman’s money became lost to her and was the property of her new husband , boo-hiss). The principal then said it was only fair that her name be written back into the founding history, so it was to be writ large across the top of a central building. There had been nary a mention of her since the 1700’s. I found tears running down my face at the surprise announcement. I looked around me and saw the same reaction in many other women in the audience.
I am trying to write some women back into history too. My third book in the Exeter trilogy will be set in the Suffragette era, when Harriot comes to town to speak. I have looked in all the usual places to try to find names of the Exeter Suffs. I can only find one, Kate Davis, and very small mention at that. Mon Dieu!!
So…. the game is afoot, the hunt is on! What a thrill! I hope to dig up an entire gaggle of Suffs, and make them into a “Golden Girls”-style group for book #3. A women’s circle, sitting in Exeter at a tea-table, getting stuff done. Wish me luck in the dusty archives!
Happy 100th to the visionaries from yesteryear, and THANK YOU!!
RM Allen, neo-Suff, August 2020
PS In the meantime, book #2 “Incident at Ioka” featuring Abolitionist-era Exeter is now out and in the stores, or online at https://www.amazon.com/Incident-Ioka-Maryvonne-Mini-Mystery/dp/0988374439 I hope you will buy it and support my projects. Thanks 😊
FYI: Here is a family wedding from 1929 in upstate NY, to put you in the mood. I wonder if any of these relations were Suffs? I love the fashions… men in their Princeton outfits, women like flowers wafting on the garden breeze. I like looking at the shoes too… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsNTr5xZn88