Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement

Home to the Long Island Woman Suffrage Association, Antonia Petrash, Editor

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August 25th, 2020 by burton33


The long awaited dedication of the Central Park statue honoring three suffragists will take place tomorrow morning, at 7:45am. The statue of the three women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth will be the first one of real women to be installed in the park.

To view this historic moment log onto one of the following channels:


Monumental women on YouTube.

August 1st, 2020 by burton33


The Corona Virus may have squelched some plans for a centennial celebration, but we present day-suffragists are adaptable, and have found other ways to celebrate that amazing achievement.

The Long Island Woman Suffrage Association has partnered with the League of Women Voters to present two virtual programs celebrating the centennial.

If you missed that one it will be repeated on Wednesday, August 12 at 3pm. Contact the East Hampton Public Library. http://easthamptonlibrary.org

Check our “What’s Happening?” page for other virtual celebrations.

July 14th, 2020 by burton33

Remarkable Woman the Month, July 2020

In these difficult times we wish to recognize the heroics of the health-care professionals who are saving lives every day by honoring those of the past. Some of those may have been suffragists. All were brave.

Mary Edwards Walker – 1832 – 1919

Mary Edwards Walker was born in 1832 in Oswego NY to progressive parents who believed in educating their daughters as well as their sons. Following in the footsteps of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical license, Mary graduated as a medical doctor from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. That same year she married Albert Miller, but did not take his name, and insisted the word “obey” be eliminated from their marriage vows. The marriage was not a happy one, and they divorced in 1869.

Mary’s first campaign for equality centered on dress reform.  Following the lead of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, she rebelled against the restrictive, heavy clothing that women were expected to wear, and opted instead for the more comfortable bloomer costume. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Mary immediately volunteered as a surgeon in the Union Army, but was denied an appointment because of her sex. She worked as a volunteer nurse until 1863 when she was finally appointed the first female US Army surgeon.

Conditions during the war were brutal, and Mary often crossed over the lines to help whoever needed it, sometimes assisting confederate soldiers and civilians. This led to her capture by the confederate troops and her confinement in a prisoner of war camp for four months. While a prisoner she refused to wear women’s clothing. Men’s clothes were more comfortable, she argued, and much easier to work in. She was released in a prisoner exchange, and returned to active duty, assigned to work in a women’s prison. In 1865 President Johnson presented her with the Congressional Medal of Honor for her contribution to the war effort, the only woman to be so honored.

After the war Mary turned her attention to other reform movements, advocating for temperance, and working for woman suffrage. In 1871 she attempted to vote, but was turned away, and then ran for Congress, but suffered defeat. She continued to work for dress reform, often dressing as a man, insisting on her right to do so, and asserting again that men’s clothing was more comfortable and less restrictive. She attracted much negative attention for her choice.

In 1917 her Medal of Honor was revoked, along with 910 others, ostensibly because there was no record of the occasion of its award. Mary refused to surrender the medal, and wore it for the rest of her life. It wasn’t until 1977 that it was officially restored by President Jimmy Carter, and her efforts to save lives during the Civil War were again recognized.

Mary Edwards Walker was an eccentric figure to the end of her life, with her championing of  various reforms sometimes evoking criticism and derision. But her work as a physician and advocate for women’s rights still resonates today, and she is remembered for leading the way in reforms that allowed women to dress in a more comfortable and healthy way. Thank you, Mary Edward Walker, MD.

July 6th, 2020 by burton33


American Experience on PBS will be showing “The Vote,” a two-part series on Channel 13, tonight, July 6th and tomorrow, July 7th, at 9pm.

This year marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Through the use of hundreds of photographs, antique video footage, and illuminating commentary, “The Vote” tells the frustrating but exciting story of the 72 year struggle by American women for political equality.

Don’t miss it!

June 1st, 2020 by burton33

Remarkable Woman of the Month, June 2020

In these difficult times we wish to recognize the heroics of the health-care professionals who are saving lives every day by honoring those of the past. Some of those may have been suffragists. All were brave.

Sara Josephine Baker, MD, 1873 – 1945

Sara Josephine Baker hadn’t planned on becoming a doctor. Born in 1873, the third daughter in a family of four children, she attended a small, undemanding school in Poughkeepsie, NY. Her father was a successful attorney and Josephine planned on attending Vassar just as her mother had before her. (Her family dropped the Sara part of her name when she was quite young and just called her Josephine, or Jo.)

But Josephine’s pleasant life changed dramatically when her father and brother died from typhoid fever, possibly from contaminated water in the nearby Hudson River; at the age of sixteen she was left to support her mother and disabled sister. In a daring and controversial decision she announced that she would become a doctor. The deaths of her father and brother may have convinced her of the need for good medical care, and although there were then very few women in the medical field, she knew that as a doctor she could always find work. After a year of intense study she was accepted at Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary in 1894. The school had been founded in 1868 by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the US to hold a medical degree, and was the only medical school that would accept women. She graduated in 1899.

But Josephine soon discovered that almost no one would seek the advice of a woman doctor, especially a man. She made a small living as a medical inspector for a life insurance company, which led to a part time position as a medical inspector for the City of New York. In 1902 Josephine was offered the job of treating the frighteningly huge numbers of ill children on the west side of Manhattan. The area—appropriately called Hell’s Kitchen—was home to thousands of poor families and was also home to infant dysentery, a disease that claimed the lives of an average of 1,500 babies each week. It paid the remarkable salary of one hundred dollars a month.

Josephine began a program of having nurses visit new mothers to teach them the values of routine hygiene, pasteurized milk, and exposure to fresh air. The program was a huge success, and led to her employment as the Head of the Division of Child Hygiene, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Josephine was the first woman to hold an administrative position in any health department in the nation.

In 1907 she was appointed assistant to the health inspector and was charged with another challenge –the arrest of Mary Mallon, better known as “Typhoid Mary.” Mallon had been working as a cook, and refused to stop cooking when told she was a carrier of typhoid fever, even though she herself had never been very ill. Josephine finally traced her to her present place of employment, and arrested her with the help of a young policeman. “I sat on her all the way to the hospital,” Josephine later recalled. “It was like being in a cage with an angry lion.” Because she refused to stop cooking for a living, the Health Department was forced to keep Mary apart from society for the rest of her life, and she never stopped blaming Josephine for the part she played in helping to make that happen.

While working to help impoverished families improve their lives, Josephine became active in the woman suffrage movement. “It was unfair and absurd,” she said, “ that the male half of the world should possess responsibilities from which we were excluded.” Like most suffragists she believed the vote would result in decreased corruption, and the elimination of child labor. She was on the committee chosen to visit President Wilson in the White House, and spent much of her limited free time marching in parades, and making impromptu speeches from the back of her open car.

In 1918 Josephine was immersed in another battle, as the pandemic of influenza raced across the world, eventually claiming 675,000 lives in the US alone. In her autobiography she recounts an eerie deja vu experience: “There was a frightful sweep of disease, and not enough doctors and nurses to care for the cases, nor undertakers to bury the dead.” The nation’s schools were closed, but not in New York City. Josephine argued that the children could be better cared for in school where they received regular examinations and the few reported cases could be treated immediately. Her gamble paid off – the number of cases in school children was negligible and even absences from other illnesses were reduced.

Like many women of her era who had chosen traditionally male professions, Josephine often faced disapproval and ostracism. She was no stranger to failure—some of what she considered her best ideas met with defeat. But she also met with unprecedented success. When she began her public health career in 1908, the infant mortality rate in New York City was 144 per 1,000 live births. When she retired in 1923, it was 66, one of the lowest of any of the major cities in the United States or Europe. Josephine spent her life trying to secure good health care for all women and children, but she never forgot the thrill of saving a single life, the “joy she saw in a mother’s eyes when her baby was assured of health.” Although her life had been a difficult struggle, she said in her autobiography, “I would not have any of it different in any way. It was an altogether satisfactory life.” She died in February, 1945.

Thank you, Sara Josephine Baker, MD!

May 1st, 2020 by burton33

Remarkable Woman of the Month – May 2020

In these difficult times we wish to recognize the heroics of the health-care professionals who are saving lives every day by honoring those of the past. Some of those may have been suffragists. All were brave.

Lavinia Lloyd Dock, 1858 – 1956

Lavinia Lloyd Dock was born Feb. 26, 1858 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Despite being raised in a wealthy and privileged family, upon graduation from high school she chose to train as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and later worked as a visiting nurse among the poor. In 1889 she went to Johnstown, Pennsylvania to help Clara Barton nurse victims of the Johnstown Flood, and later became superintendent of nurses at the new Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She established herself as a leader in the nursing field with the publication of Textbook for Materia Medica for Nurses (1890), the first manual of drugs for nurses, that became the standard nursing textbook for a generation. In 1896 she returned to New York to work with her friend Lillian Wald at the Henry Street Settlement House in lower Manhattan where she worked among the poor for the next twenty years.

While working at the settlement house Dock was particularly struck by the needs and problems of her working class patients and became an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, especially the right of women to vote. She was arrested for attempting to vote in New York in 1896 (police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt refused to jail her). In 1909 she marched with striking shirtwaist factory workers, and in December 1912 joined suffrage leader Rosalie Gardner Jones in her 13 day hike to Albany. As a member of the National Woman’s Party she was one of the first to picket the White House in 1917, and was jailed three times at the harsh Occoquan workhouse in Virginia.

In later years she became an advocate for birth control, and actively campaigned against American involvement in World War I. She spent her retirement years writing a two-volume History of Nursing, because she believed nursing would never be fully accepted as a profession if not properly documented.

Lavinia Lloyd Dock could have lived a life of privilege and ease. Instead she chose the rigors of nursing, coupling it with a quest for political equality for women, always working to better the lives of the women in her care. She died in 1956 at the age of 99. Thank you, Lavinia Lloyd Dock.

April 13th, 2020 by burton33

Remarkable Woman of the Month -April, 2020

In these difficult times we wish to recognize the heroics of the health-care professionals who are saving lives every day by honoring those of the past. Some of those may have been suffragists. All were brave.

Martha Minerva Franklin, 1870 – 1968

When we think of heroic, trail blazing nurses we think almost immediately of Florence Nightingale, who introduced methods of hygiene and strove to elevate the stature of nurses from that of menial servants to educated professionals. But there were many who followed in her footsteps, while forging paths of their own making, solving problems of their own time.

Martha Minerva Franklin was born October 29, 1870 to a black working class family in New Milford, Connecticut.  She graduated from public high school in 1890 and in 1895 enrolled in the Woman’s Hospital Training School of Philadelphia to study nursing, only the second black to attend. In 1897 she was the only black woman in her graduating class.

By the end of the nineteenth century the medical field was experiencing what would be profound and lasting changes. A proliferation of new hospitals offering advanced clinical and scientific techniques created the demand for skilled nurses; new schools opened, including one at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  But most nursing schools would not accept black women, or had strict racial quotas. Even when accepted, black nurses were often not allowed to treat white patients. After graduation they found themselves limited to working in poor, disease-ridden ghettos deep within crowded cities.

Martha soon discovered the unfortunate discrimination of the medical profession against black nurses. There were few jobs available for them in hospitals or public health clinics, so they were limited to private duty nursing where they were often treated like servants. They were prohibited from joining national organizations that would enable them to keep abreast of new developments and seek leadership positions in the field.

Martha decided the only path to success for black nurses was to establish a national organization of their own. In 1908 she founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN), with twenty-six charter members. To preserve its professional integrity full membership was limited to registered nurses who had graduated from a hospital-affiliated school.

Over the next thirty years Martha worked tirelessly with NACGN to overcome racial bias, end discrimination in pay and benefits, and assist members with placement in supervisory positions. Martha saw the organization taken over by other qualified leaders who worked to break down racial bias. They also campaigned to allow black nurses to serve in the military. In 1948 the American Nurses Association finally voted to permit black nurses to become members, and in 1951, NACGN took the unprecedented move of voting to disband.

Martha Minerva Franklin saw the nursing profession move from a fledging group of little more than untrained servants to a highly educated and respected profession of men and women of all races upon which the entire medical community depends. She did not simply seek equality for the black nurse – she insisted upon it, because she knew such equality was necessary to both personal and professional survival. She died on September 26, 1968, after devoting many years of her life to an organization whose ultimate success led to its demise.  In 1976 she was posthumously admitted to the Nursing Hall of Fame.

April 2nd, 2020 by burton33

Good Reads for Tough Times

Although there has been an understandable halt to programs and celebrations of the suffrage centennial there are many wonderful books circulating that help keep the story alive. Your public library is probably closed but you can still access these titles as e-books through your library’s web site, or on Amazon.

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss. A nail-biting account of the exciting finish to the battle for the vote.

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote, by Susan Ware. Nineteen activists you might not know about who helped shape history.

Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote, by Ellen Carol Dubois. Details the most heroic social movement in US history, women fighting for the rights of women.

Gilded Suffragists: New York Socialites Who Fought for Women’s Right to Vote, by Johanna Neuman.

And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the right to Vote, by Johanna Neuman. A comprehensive history of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, from 1776 to 1965.

And for children:

Marching With Aunt Susan, by Claire Rudolf Murphy, Illustrated by Stacey Schuett. An excellent introduction to the woman suffrage movement, based on the real-life story of a young girl.

Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote. By Kirsten Gillibrand, Illustrated by Maira Kalman. Stories of ten brave women who helped women win the vote.

March 12th, 2020 by burton33

Hot on the Suffrage Trail!

The woman suffrage movement came alive for a few days last week when my husband and I visited Newport Rhode Island, summer home of prominent suffragist Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. Alva’s opulent Beaux Art mansion, Marble House, was built for her as a 39th birthday present by her first husband, Willie K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and is said to have cost 11 million dollars. After their divorce in 1895 Alva received the “cottage” as part of her settlement, along with homes on Long Island and in Manhattan. When she later became interested in the woman suffrage movement she opened Marble House to tours, charging $5 for visitors to enter the house and ascend the grand marble staircase. Others could pay $1 to roam the grounds, and view the Tea House that Alva had imported from China in 1914, all for a good cause.

Marble House today is wonderfully preserved and still grand; the yellow Italian marble of the staircase is just as warm and beautiful as it was when it was built over one hundred twenty years ago. And if you listen very carefully you might just hear the whisper of long skirts as they fly up and down the marble stairs, or the chatter of women’s voices as they view the opulence and grandeur of the age.

There are dozens of other grand and impressive “cottages” in Newport, and no shortage of things to do. A rocky cliff walk meanders along the back of the estates, and a picturesque ocean drive offers stunning views of the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean. But for me visiting Marble House was the pinnacle of the tour, offering tangible evidence and affirmation of one woman’s determination to secure political equality for everyone. Such determination, sometimes coupled with a love of beauty, never goes out of style.

February 22nd, 2020 by burton33

Happy Birthday, Aunt Susan!

The Long Island Woman Suffrage Association visited a local fourth grade last week to talk about the contributions of Susan B. Anthony and to make colorful birthday cards in honor of her 200th Birthday on February 15th. We then sent some to the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, MA, and some to the Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester NY.

We received this thoughtful thank you and photo from the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, the home where she was born and spent the early years of her life. Although it is only about ten years old, the museum is doing a great job keeping the work and spirit of Susan B. Anthony alive. It is so important for youngsters to learn about these women who worked so tirelessly to secure political equality for us all.

And besides that, we all had fun! Thanks to all the teachers and children involved.

January 19th, 2020 by burton33

Suffragettes in Corselettes!

Not only did suffragists have to work hard for the vote, but they also had to endure being physically twisted and conformed by society into what was considered a “desired shape.” Join the mother-daughter team of Velya Janez-Urban and Chris Urban for “Suffragettes In Corselettes: the Evolution of Underwear and Our 19th Amendment,” noon, Wednesday January 22, at the Rogers Memoral Library, 91 Coopers Farm Road, Southampton. For further information: 631-283-0774, ext. 523 myrml.org (Free)

December 20th, 2019 by burton33

Suffrage Comes to the Rose Parade!

On Wednesday, January 1, 2020 a woman suffrage float, bedecked with thousands of vials of yellow roses will lead the historic Rose Parade in Pasadena, California to celebrate the ratification in 2020 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting all women throughout the United States the right to vote.  The theme of this year’s Rose Parade is The Power of Hope.

The float is sponsored by a wide variety of women’s groups, including the League of Women Voters, the National Women’s History Alliance and the National Federation of Business and Professional women, and will feature a 30 foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, holding a tablet inscribed with the 19th Amendment. Riders will include descendants of prominent suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells. Behind the float, dressed in white and wearing suffrage sashes will be 100 “out-walkers,” representing each state.

More than half of the $360,000 cost of the float was funded by grass-root efforts and sales of vials of yellow roses decorating the float from individuals who believe in paying tribute to this historic battle for political equality.

For further information visit https://pasadenacelebrates2020.org and don’t forget to tune in on New Year’s Day!

December 12th, 2019 by burton33

Suffrage Holiday Shopping!

As we approach the gift giving season you might want to treat your favorite suffragist to a gift that will help them celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment next year while having a bit of fun.

Books for Adults:

The Woman’s Hour: the Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss. One of my favorites – it tells in fascinating detail the story of the last days of the suffrage battle, centered on the pivotal state of Tennessee.

The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote, by Brooke Kroeger. Another favorite that offers a different perspective on the suffrage battle and a detailed account of the work of some surprising allies.

Remember the Ladies: Celebrating those who Fought for Freedom at the Ballot Box. Angela P. Dodson. A well-rounded account, especially recommended for those new to the subject.

And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the Right to Vote, by Johanna Neuman. A new release that recounts women’s struggle for equality dating back to before the iconic Seneca Falls Conference in 1848

Books For Children:

Marching With Aunt Susan: Susan B. Anthony and The Fight for Woman Suffrage. By Claire Rudolph Murphy, illustrated by Stacey Schuett. Based on the true story of a young girl who is convinced by Susan B. Anthony to devote herself to fighting for women’s rights.

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, A Kitten and 10,000 Miles. By Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. The true story of two brave young suffragists and their daring-cross country adventure in a small yellow car, complete with an equally brave kitten.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. By Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The exciting tale of a young immigrant who fought for suffrage as well as the rights of young factory workers to better pay and working conditions.

Bold and Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the right to Vote, by Kirsten Gillibrand, art by Maiara Kalman. Ten women who fought to make their voices heard and their choices count.

And in the “Just for Fun” category:

Votes for Women Puzzle, 500 piece colorful puzzle that celebrates a century of struggle. Uncommongoods.com/ 888-365-0056. ($22.00)

Votes for Women Charm Bracelet. 7 inch bracelet with charms honoring suffragists. Victoriantradingco.com/800-800-6647. ($24.95).

NewportStyle.net. A website offering a variety of Votes for Women items, including china, pins and suffrage Christmas ornaments.

Happy Shopping!

October 17th, 2019 by burton33

We Love A Parade!

What a wonderful time we had marching in the Columbus Day parade in Huntington NY last Sunday! A crisp fall day, flags waving, bands playing, and thousands gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of one of our most important historical figures, Christopher Columbus.

The theme of the parade was the “Year of the Woman,” and to emphasize that The Long Island Woman Suffrage Association was joined by its partner, the Ronkonkoma Equal Suffrage Association, led by Ellyn Okvist in her cheerful, flower-strewn truck. The one-mile parade route didn’t seem long enough for all of us to fully enjoy the celebration and was over far too soon!

Thanks to all who came and marched, and thanks to Bruce Levy for the great photos!

Keep watching this site for more centennial celebrations.


October 8th, 2019 by burton33

We Love a Parade!

Just a reminder that we are marching in the Columbus Day parade on Sunday, October 13, 2019 in Huntington, beginning at 11am. Join us as we celebrate the hard-working suffragists and the upcoming centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Email me at lisuffrage@gmail.com for details.

See you at the parade!