Until 100 years ago, women did not have the right to vote in New York State. That changed on Nov. 6, 1917, when New Yorkers voted to give women the ballot.
The Adirondack History Museum is marking the occasion with “Adirondack Suffragists: 100 Years of Votes for Women,” a multimedia exhibit highlighting the national, state and regional aspects of the movement. Though preceded by many western states in state-level action, New York was nonetheless a major national battleground in the fight for women’s rights in general and in the struggle for the passage of a national woman’s suffrage amendment — one finally ratified in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We couldn’t cover the entire women’s suffrage movement in one room, but we do hope that we have stimulated people to ponder the complicated story behind the winning of women’s suffrage in New York State: the heroic struggles of the leaders, the cultural aspects of the movement, the less-than-heroic dimensions of the movement pertaining to persistent racism, the critical roles played by the rank-and-file, the equally powerful anti-suffrage oppositional movement that arose that delayed victory until 1917, and the many local activists who participated on both a local and national level,” said exhibit co-planner Gerald Zahavi, PhD., professor and the director of the University at Albany’s Public History Program.
Beginning in 1848 with the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, and continuing well into the early 20th century, New York women such as Inez Milholland of Lewis, led the national “Votes for Women” movement. Along with artifacts and historical interpretation, the exhibit contains silent films and music of the suffrage movement, a screening of the documentary Inez Milholland: Forward Into Light, and several interactive elements, including a chance to dress up in a suffrage sash for a photograph, and to “cast a ballot” on the 1917 suffrage amendment.
A Thursday evening lecture kicks off the museum’s suffrage programming for the season. “Votes for Women!” will be held on June 22 as the first presentation in the 2017 lecture series. Presented by Local Historian Margaret Bartley and Zahavi, the exhibit planners, the multimedia lecture will focus on the passage of suffrage within New York State. There will be a reception at 6 p.m., and the lecture will begin at 7 p.m. The lecture is $8 for nonmembers.
As part of its suffrage programming, the museum will host a summer film series, with one film showing each month from June through September. The Museum will screen One Woman, One Vote on June 29, Suffragettes in the Silent Cinema on July 30, Iron Jawed Angels on Aug. 17 and Suffragette on Sept. 14. All films begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.
The museum’s suffrage programming is sponsored, in part, by an action grant from Humanities New York.
“Nowadays, many people think that women’s suffrage was a foregone conclusion, but it was very controversial for several generations,” said Museum Director Aurora McCaffrey. “Our exhibit covers the movement from a variety of perspectives. While ‘suffrage’ means having the right to vote, it’s not an uncommon mistake for people to think the suffragists were named for the very real suffering they went through.”
The Adirondack History Museum seeks to serve as Essex County’s center for the stories that reveal the roots and values of its people. The museum is opened Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from noon-4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2 for students.
June 29, 7 p.m. – ONE WOMAN, ONE VOTE
This documentary film offers a general overview of the “long and rocky road in ultimately winning the vote for women.” It covers events from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s call for women’s rights at Seneca Falls in 1848 to the final ratification of the 19th amendment on August 18, 1920. Directed and produced by Ruth Pollak.
July 20, 7 p.m. – SUFFRAGETTES IN THE SILENT CINEMA
Historian and writer Kay Sloan has assembled rare and wonderful footage that opens a historic window onto how women’s suffrage was represented in early American cinema. The evening will also include viewings of some short archival British and American suffrage and anti-suffrage films from the 1910-1920 period.
August 17, 7 p.m.- IRON JAWED ANGELS
This fact-based narrative non-fiction film, in part based on historian Linda Ford’s book by the same title, centers on the American women’s suffrage movement during the 1910s. It focuses particularly on women’s suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns and how they reshaped and radicalized the movement’s strategies and tactics during the decade preceding the passage of the 19th amendment. Directed by Katja von Garnier.
September 14, 7 p.m. – SUFFRAGETTE
A dramatic film about the British women’s suffrage movement, focusing on the 1911-1913 period. The film stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep. It offers viewers an opportunity to ponder the differences between the British and American woman’s suffrage movements. Directed by Sarah Gavron.