One Hundred Years Ago Today, August 7, 1915



Will Leave New York State, with Ceremonies in Mid-Hudson, at Noon. Then Go On a Tour.

The New York Times, August 7, 1915

One hundred years ago today the tugboat W.S. Holbrook sailed from Pier A in North River into New York Harbor, carrying a boatload of determined (sometimes seasick) suffragists, sporting the suffrage colors of purple, green and white, and bearing a sticky, somewhat ugly symbol of the suffrage movement, the Suffrage Torch. Midway into the harbor, in the shadow of another torch-bearer, Lady Liberty herself, they were met by a boat of suffragists from New Jersey, led by Mrs. Mina C. Van Winkle, into whose hands they commended the Torch, so it could be carried further on its journey across the country, and into the history books.

The Suffrage Torch was the brainchild of Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who envisioned it as a potent symbol of illumination of the suffrage cause, one sure to garner some much-needed publicity. That November an amendment to the New York State Constitution enfranchising New York women was coming up for a vote, and the suffrage campaign needed all the publicity it could get.

The Torch had begun its journey ten days before on the east end of Long Island, carried by suffragist Louisine Havemeyer, across the Island, up through New York State to Buffalo, and back down again. Along the way Louisine delivered speeches, met with women’s groups, and explained the Torch’s symbol to any and all who would listen.

Harriot Stanton Blatch had planned to be on the tugboat that day to transfer the Torch to the New Jersey delegation, but her husband died suddenly, so she asked Louisine to take her place. Despite a somewhat rough sea, the transfer was completed without incident. Photographers’ flashbulbs popped; colorful flags flew; suffrage songs were sung and horns blown, and the Torch was transferred and sent on its way.

Although defeated that year, the amendment to the NY State Constitution was passed in 1917, finally enfranchising New York women. Louisine Havemeyer would go on to picket the White House, and work diligently for suffrage until the final victory was won in 1920.

Look for more information about her and the Suffrage Torch in Chapter 5 of my book, Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement.

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