100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New York

Palace Theater celebrates anniversary of suffrage for women in New York

Renee-Noelle Felice

This month New York celebrated the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.  It happened in New York in 1917, three years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, which gave all the women in the country suffrage. On the night of November 6th, a celebration of this historic event was held at The Palace Theater in Syracuse.  It was a multi-media event. A friend of mine, Renee-Noelle Felice, who often dresses in costumes of women of the past, was there to greet people dressed as Matilda Joslyn Gage and being her “living history” representative.  Large posters with Women’s Rights historical information were prominently displayed.  Colleen Pilcher, the only paid employee at the Gage House, was there with books and other memorabilia from the Gage House Book Store. (At the bookstore, most products are sold to women for $.79 on the dollar while men have to pay full price.  This is a clever way to make the point that women STILL only earn on average this same ration when it comes to wages for men versus women.)

Renee-Noelle Felice as Matilda Joslyn Gage

 

This month New York celebrated the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote. It happened in New York in 1917, three years before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, which gave all the women in the country suffrage. On the night of November 6th, a celebration of this historic event was held at The Palace Theater in Syracuse. It was a multi-media event. A friend of mine, Renee-Noelle Felice, who often dresses in costumes of women of the past, was there to greet people dressed as Matilda Joslyn Gage and being her “living history” representative. Large posters with Women’s Rights historical information were prominently displayed. Colleen Pilcher, the only paid employee at the Gage House, was there with books and other memorabilia from the Gage House Book Store. (At the bookstore, most products are sold to women for $.79 on the dollar while men have to pay full price. This is a clever way to make the point that women STILL only earn on average this same ration when it comes to wages for men versus women.) My friend Colleen Kattau, a favorite singer and songwriter of mine, was also there. She entertained the crowd before the movie by singing some suffragist songs as well as a wonderful new song she has composed that is about Matilda Joslyn Gage. I was invited to “table” in the lobby for a unique organization to which I belong and of which I am now the president. We call ourselves, appropriately, Women Transcending Boundaries. That is because we have members of most faith groups and many different cultures. The organization started right after 9/11 when a local woman, Betsy Wiggins, called up a nearby mosque and asked if she could speak to a Muslim woman, as she did not know much about Islam and wanted to learn more about it. This is how she met Danya Wellman, an American-Muslim woman. They met over coffee at Betsy’s home and talked for hours. They came back the next day and continued the conversation. They soon realized that there were probably many other women who would be interested in the conversations they were having. That is how the organization began. We are a group of women from assorted backgrounds who seek to find common ground. Currently, I have vice presidents that are Christian, Mormon and Muslim. But Jewish, Baha’i, Unitarian-Universalist, Hindu, Buddhist, Quaker, Catholic and many other faith groups are represented—including Pagans and agnostics. We learn from each other through programs, and dialoguing with each other. We also have a terrific book group for which our choices of books deal with different religions and cultures, refugees, immigrants and social issues. We collaborate with schools, civic groups, businesses and governmental entities. We do many projects in the community, often including working with immigrants. Literacy is a main focus as well. A wonderful sewing program has been in place for several years for refugees. At the end of their training, they are given a used sewing machine. Scholarships, International Dinners, and inter-religious events of all kinds are included in our agenda. This year, instead of going to our usual meeting place for our monthly meetings, we are often going to places to have dialogues with people of different cultures, religions or ages. We have already had a wonderful evening of “Dinner and Dialogue” at the Turkish center’s CNY RISE. We are excited about our next meeting event to be held at the Gage House where we will be dialoguing with the girls of the Girl Ambassadors program. See a slide show of their activities at http://www.matildajoslyngage.org/about-the-center/girlambassadorsforhumanrights/. Drawing on the life and legacy of Matilda Joslyn Gage, the Gage Foundation Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights Program inspires and empowers young women to become agents of change on the local, national, and global stage. High school-aged girls 15-18 years old, who are interested in social justice, are encouraged to apply. The Gage Foundation Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights Program is a comprehensive program offering girls the opportunity to facilitate dialogue about Social Justice issues in their community, connect with community social justice organizations, and participate in a social justice service project. After the opening events at The Palace Theater, the movie “Suffragette” was shown. It starred Meryl Streep, though her role in the film was rather small. She plays Emmeline Pankhurst, a British Suffragette leader. Pankhurst was widely criticized for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women’s suffrage in Britain. In 1999 Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. They stated that "she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back". “Suffragette” is an excellent movie. It is a 2015 British historical period drama about women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom. It is directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abit Morgan. The stars of the film besides Streep, include Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, and Ben Whishaw. I had seen the movie shortly after it came out. I enjoyed it even more seeing it for a second time. It told the story of the Suffragettes in England who had grown tired of being polite and being ignored. They grew more violent to get attention. This amounted to destruction of property (windows, mailboxes and other minor damage) but not bodily harm to anyone. That did not forestall the police to handle them gently. They endured vocal and physical harassment, beatings, terrible prison conditions and forced feedings when they attempted hunger strikes. I feel it is so important for our younger generation to see this and other films like it and to learn the history of what women endured in order to achieve the right to vote and, later, many other rights that most women now take for granted. I am grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo who kicked off the New York State Women's Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission, which will be responsible for a series of statewide programs that celebrate women's suffrage in New York State. A rally sponsored by the City Council Women’s Caucus and the NYC Women Vote 100 Coalition was held on the steps of City Hall in New York City was part of the celebration. They called on females to run for public office in large numbers. To celebrate the historic day, the City Council issued a proclamation declaring Nov. 6 as Women’s Vote Day. They paid tribute to pioneers in the women’s suffrage movement. Although Matilda Joslyn Gage was probably not named, we know now how much we owe to her and the activists from the 1800’s in Upstate New York. New Zealand was the first country to achieve women’s suffrage. Check out New Zealand’s Women’s Rights March here: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/11/17/1716510/-New-Zealand-s-prime-minister-shuts-Trump-down-with-a-joke-about-popularity?detail=emaildkre
Colleen Kattau

My friend Colleen Kattau, a favorite singer and songwriter of mine, was also there.  She entertained the crowd before the movie by singing some suffragist songs as well as a wonderful new song she has composed that is about Matilda Joslyn Gage.

 

 

 

Sue Savion: I dressed all in white like the Suffragettes used to.

I was invited to “table” in the lobby for a unique organization to which I belong and of which I am now the president. We call ourselves, appropriately, Women Transcending Boundaries. That is because we have members of most faith groups and many different cultures.  The organization started right after 9/11 when a local woman, Betsy Wiggins, called up a nearby mosque and asked if she could speak to a Muslim woman, as she did not know much about Islam and wanted to learn more about it.  This is how she met Danya Wellman, an American-Muslim woman.  They met over coffee at Betsy’s home and talked for hours.  They came back the next day and continued the conversation.  They soon realized that there were probably many other women who would be interested in the conversations they were having.  That is how the organization began. We are a group of women from assorted backgrounds who seek to find common ground.   Currently, I have vice presidents that are Christian, Mormon and Muslim.  But Jewish, Baha’i, Unitarian-Universalist, Hindu, Buddhist, Quaker, Catholic and many other faith groups are represented—including Pagans and agnostics.  We learn from each other through programs, and dialoguing with each other.  We also have a terrific book group for which our choices of books deal with different religions and cultures, refugees, immigrants and social issues. We collaborate with schools, civic groups, businesses and governmental entities.  We do many projects in the community, often including working with immigrants. Literacy is a main focus as well.  A wonderful sewing program has been in place for several years for refugees.  At the end of their training, they are given a used sewing machine.  Scholarships, International Dinners, and inter-religious events of all kinds are included in our agenda. This year, instead of going to our usual meeting place for our monthly meetings, we are often going to places to have dialogues with people of different cultures, religions or ages.  We have already had a wonderful evening of “Dinner and Dialogue” at the Turkish center’s CNY RISE.

We are excited about our next meeting event to be held at the Gage House where we will be dialogueing with the girls of the Girl Ambassadors program. See a slide show of their activities at  http://www.matildajoslyngage.org/about-the-center/girlambassadorsforhumanrights/.  Drawing on the life and legacy of Matilda Joslyn Gage, the Gage Foundation Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights Program inspires and empowers young women to become agents of change on the local, national, and global stage. High school-aged girls 15-18 years old, who are interested in social justice, are encouraged to apply. The Gage Foundation Girl Ambassadors for Human Rights Program is a comp

Emmeline Pankhurst, Britain’s Suffragette  Leader

 

After the opening events at The Palace Theater, the movie “Suffragette” was shown.  It starred Meryl Streep, though her role in the film was rather small. She plays Emmeline Pankhurst, a British Suffragette leader. Pankhurst was widely criticized for her militant tactics, and historians disagree about their effectiveness, but her work is recognized as a crucial element in achieving women’s suffrage in Britain.  In 1999 Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.  They stated that “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”.

Emmeline Pankhurst

 

 

“Suffragette” is an excellent movie. It is a 2015 British historical period drama about women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom.  It is directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abit Morgan.  The stars of the film besides Streep, include Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, and Ben Whishaw.  I had seen the movie shortly after it came out. I enjoyed it even more seeing it for a second time.   It told the story of the Suffragettes in England who had grown tired of being polite and being ignored.  They grew more violent to get attention.  This amounted to destruction of property (windows, mailboxes and other minor damage) but not bodily harm to anyone.  That did not forestall the police to handle them gently.  They endured vocal and physical harassment, beatings, terrible prison conditions and forced feedings when they attempted hunger strikes.

I feel it is so important for our younger generation to see this and other films like it and to learn the history of what women endured in order to achieve the right to vote and, later, many other rights that most women now take for granted.

 

I am grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo who kicked off the New York State Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission, which will be responsible for a series of statewide programs that celebrate women’s suffrage in New York State. A rally sponsored by the City Council Women’s Caucus and the NYC Women Vote 100 Coalition was held on the steps of City Hall in New York City was part of the celebration. They called on females to run for public office in large numbers.  To celebrate the historic day, the City Council issued a proclamation declaring Nov. 6 as Women’s Vote Day. They paid tribute to pioneers in the women’s suffrage movement.  Although Matilda Joslyn Gage was probably not named, we know now how much we owe to her and the activists from the 1800’s in Upstate New York.

 

New Zealand was the first country to achieve women’s suffrage.  Check out New Zealand’s Women’s Rights March here:  http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/322798/nz-leads-marches-for-women%27s-rights

 

Amazing Grace: Thomas Clarkson and Thomas Clarkson Gage

Once again my blog is inspired by a recent OASIS class that connects my heroine Matilda Joslyn Gage with another historic character, Thomas Clarkson.  In this class we viewed the amazing film “Amazing Grace.”  It was a follow-up to a previous film, “Belle,” concerning the same topic:  ending slavery in England.

Both of these films were historically accurate, well done and highly emotional.  Perhaps some of you are aware of the history of the writing of the well-known hymn, “Amazing Grace.”  As the story goes, a slave trader, John Newton, after gaining wealth from this endeavor but not being fully aware of the horrible abuse of human life involved, had an epiphany and quit the trade altogether.  He became a cleric and was penitent about his role in this type of enterprise for the rest of his life.  He is the one who wrote “Amazing Grace.”

While Newton is a character in this movie, the story centers around the idealist William Wilberforce, who maneuvers his way through Parliament at a very young age, endeavoring to end the British transatlantic slave trade. William contemplates leaving politics to study theology, but is persuaded by his friends that he will be more effective doing the work of God by taking on the unpopular and dangerous issue of the abolition of the British slave trade. His conviction in the cause deepens following a meeting with his former mentor John Newton (introduced sweeping a church floor dressed in sackcloth) who is said to live “in the company of 20,000 ghosts… slaves”. As a former slave ship captain turned Christian, he deeply regrets his past life and the effects on his fellow man. Newton urges William to take up the cause. Pitt becomes Prime Minister and William becomes a key supporter and confidant. William Pitt (Yes, THAT William Pitt).  Other close friends and allies were Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More (an educator, writer and social reformer who was also known for her writings on abolition and for encouraging women to join the anti-slavery movement.), and Olaudah Equiano (A prince in his native Africa, he published his memoir, one of the genres of what became known as slave narratives–accounts by slaves who achieved freedom. As an African with direct experience of the slave trade and slavery, Equiano was pleased that his book became highly influential in the anti-slavery movement. Clarkson asked for aid from the Rev. Jones in selling copies of the memoir and arranging for Equiano to visit Cambridge to lecture.)

It is a compelling story and shows how Britain did away with the slave trade almost 60 years before the U.S. did. Each of the characters mentioned in the paragraph above also have “amazing” stories and I hope many of you will seek out this film from 2006 and learn more about them.  But the gentleman I want to emphasize in this blog is Thomas Clarkson.

When I heard his name in the context of this film, my brain immediately perked up.  Thomas Clarkson?! Isn’t that the name Matilda gave to her oldest son?  I quickly googled it just to make sure.  I knew that Matilda had named her son for someone else but did not know much about the British    Thomas Clarkson.  After researching him even more after viewing the movie, I realize exactly why  Matilda chose that name.

Thomas Clarkson was born on March 28th, 1760.  He was an English abolitionist and a leading campaigner against the slave trade in the British Empire.  He helped found the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade and helped achieve passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended British trade in slaves.

Clarkson was ordained a deacon but did not continue on to ordination. Instead, from 1785 he devoted his life to abolitionism.  His An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (1786) brought him into association with Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, and other foes of slavery. Sharp formulated the plan to settle black people in Sierra Leone and founded the St. George’s Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra Leone Company.  His efforts led to both the founding of the Province of Freedom, and, later on, Freetown, Sierra Leone, and so he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Sierra Leone. He was also a biblical scholar and a talented musician.

In 1787 Clarkson joined them in forming a society for the abolition of the slave trade. His essay in pamphlet form also gained him the attention and sympathy of Edmund Burke and the young William Pitt.  Clarkson visited British ports to collect facts for his pamphlet. The evidence that he gathered was used in the antislavery campaign led by Wilberforce in Parliament. Little progress was made during the early years of warfare with France because many members of Parliament believed that the slave trade provided essential wealth for the nation and valuable training for the navy.

 As one of the founding members of The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, Clarkson took a leading part in its affairs and was tasked to collect evidence to support the abolition of the slave trade. He faced much opposition from supporters of the trade in some of the cities he visited. The slave traders were an influential group because the trade was a legitimate and highly lucrative business, generating prosperity for many of the ports.

Liverpool was a major base of slave trading syndicates and home port for their ships. In 1787, Clarkson was attacked and nearly killed when visiting the city, as a gang of sailors was paid to assassinate him. He barely escaped with his life. Elsewhere, however, he gathered support. Clarkson’s speech at the collegiate church in Manchester (now Manchester Cathedral) on 28 October 1787 galvanized the anti-slavery campaign in the city.

Clarkson read everything he could on the subject of whether it was lawful to enslave “the unconsenting.”  This included first-hand accounts of the African slave trade such as Francis Moore’s Travels into the Interior Parts of Africa. He interviewed those who had personal experience of the slave trade and of slavery. The cruelty he discovered appalled him and changed his life.  He had what he called a spiritual revelation from God as he traveled by horseback between Cambridge and London.

Clarkson was very effective at giving the Committee a high public profile: he spent the next two years traveling around England, promoting the cause and gathering evidence. He interviewed 20,000 sailors during his research. He obtained equipment used on slave-ships, such as iron handcuffs, leg-shackles, and thumbscrews; instruments for forcing open slaves’ jaws; and branding irons. He published engravings of the tools in pamphlets and displayed the instruments at public meetings.

He even visited The Lively, an African trading ship. Although not a slave ship, it carried the cargo of high-quality goods: carved ivory and woven textiles, beeswax, and produce such as palm oil and peppers. He was highly impressed by the quality of craftsmanship and skill displayed in these items. But Clarkson was horrified to think that the people who could create such items were being enslaved. He brought samples from the ship and started a collection to which he added over the years. It included crops, spices and raw materials, along with refined trade goods.

Clarkson noticed that pictures and artifacts could influence public opinion more than words alone. He began to display items from his collection of fine goods to reinforce his anti-slavery lectures. Demonstrating that Africans were highly skilled artisans, he argued for an alternative humane trading system based on goods rather than laborers. He carried a “box” featuring his collection, which became an important part his public meetings. It was an early example of a visual aid. Clarkson also bought examples of equipment used on slave ships, including handcuffs, shackles and branding irons, which he used as visual aids.

Clarkson rode by horseback some 35,000 miles for evidence and visited local anti-slave trade societies founded across the country. He wrote vivid firsthand descriptions from sailors, surgeons and others who had been involved in the trafficking of slaves.

In 1807 a bill for the abolition of the slave trade finally was passed, and the next year Clarkson’s two-volume history of the trade was published. When the  Anti-Slavery Society  was founded (1823), Clarkson was chosen a vice president.

Thomas Clarkson took a break for a while, got married and had one son. But circumstances compelled him to eventually continue his passionate work.

In 1823 Clarkson traveled the country to build support for the Anti-Slavery Society’s goal. He covered 10,000 miles and activated the network of sympathetic anti-slavery societies which had been formed. This resulted in 777 petitions being delivered to parliament demanding the total emancipation of slaves. When the society adopted a policy of immediate emancipation, Clarkson and Wilberforce appeared together for the last time to lend their support. In 1833 the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, with emancipation to be completed by 1838 in the British colonies. During the last 13 years of his life he continued to campaign for abolition, focusing on the United States. He was the principal speaker in 1840 at the opening of the first World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in Freemasons’ Hall in London. In 1846 Clarkson was host to Frederick Douglass on his first visit to England.

After years of hard work by Clarkson and his wife and Sharp, Wilberforce and many others, the slave trade was abolished in the British empire in 1807. The following year, Clarkson published his book History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade and, although his health was now failing, continued to campaign for the complete abolition of slavery. In 1833, parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, which gave all slaves in the British empire their freedom. Thomas Clarkson died on September 26th, 1846.  Matilda Joslyn and Henry Gage got married in 1845.  Their son, Thomas Clarkson Gage, was born in 1848.  Matilda had grown up in a strong abolitionist home.  Her father Dr. Hezekiah Joslyn welcomed fugitive slaves to their home in Cicero, New York.  She would have heard about Thomas Clarkson growing up, as Dr. Joslyn was very involved abolitionist activities.  Having grown up in a house on the Underground Railroad, it was quite natural for Matilda to follow suit with their home in Fayetteville, New York—even though doing so meant risking a high fine and arrest.  Perhaps naming her son after one of her abolitionist heroes inspired her to be strong in the face of bigotry and hate.                                                                          Thomas Clarkson Gage with his family.

Many monuments, schools, towns and even a pub in his hometown of Wisbech are named for Thomas Clarkson.  In 1996 a tablet was dedicated to Clarkson’s memory in Westminster Abbey, located near the tomb of William Wilberforce.

 

 

In 2010 his name was added to a list of saints by the Church of England Synod.  His feast day is July 30th.