Women of the Nation Arise!
Women of the Nation Arise!
EXHIBITION AND PROGRAM SERIES HONORING THE CENTENNIAL OF THE 19TH AMENDMENT
Women of the Nation Arise! Staten Islanders in the Fight for Women's Right to Vote
Women in the United States won a long-fought national victory in 1920 when the 19th Constitutional Amendment establishing their right to vote was ratified. Women in New York had earned that right in a state referendum in 1917. Staten Island’s role in the fight for woman suffrage was both innovative on a national level and uniquely suited to the community from which it came.
Women of the Nation Arise! presents stories of Staten Island suffragists focusing on four tactics they used in the decades-long struggle for political change before they could vote: education, organization, agitation, and publicity. As the site of the first flight for woman suffrage in the United States, Staten Island provided a distinctive setting for suffrage activism.
One hundred years later, this exhibition also critically examines the woman suffrage movement as a complex web of imperfect strategies. Suffragists often leveraged racial, economic, ethnic, and geographical biases to advance their cause. In doing so, the movement both divided and unified women in building consensus in their efforts to win the right to vote.
The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a major milestone in American Democracy. The law added millions of women to the rolls of American voters, but it did not secure voting rights for all citizens. Efforts to ensure and expand access to the polls continued beyond 1920 and to this day. We celebrate the achievements of local suffragists acting on the grassroots level to create the momentum necessary for regional and national change. Their steadfast perseverance to achieve self-determination set a new standard for civic responsibility that still astounds and challenges us today.
Click on the thumbnails below to explore each section of the exhibition.
Suffragists had to educate both men and women that women's views mattered and that they had a right to participate in government. Staten Island suffratists argued their cause before the houses of the New York State Legislature, to women gathered in parlors and clubs, and to male voters everywhere from lecture halls to street corners.
Prior to the 19th Amendment, laws barred women from voting, but that did not stop them from organizing. Staten Island women founded church groups and women's clubs that operated as politcal structures. Within these organizations, women debated issues, voted on decisions, and elected officers. Suffragists used these networks to organize their campaign for suffrage.
Suffragists across the nation took bold action to raise awareness about their cause by organizing marches, protests, and spectacles to create momentum for legislation.
They staffed booths at carnivals and country fairs to distribue their literature and recruit supporters.
Empowered by state and federal legislation that gave millions of new women voters access to the polls, women participated at all levels of government. Still, because individual states could affect local voting laws, discrimination based on race, class, and ethnicity kept millions more Americans from voting for another forty-five years.
The effort to achieve equitable access and representation continues to this day.
Women of the Nation Arise! has been in development for more than three years with research spearheaded by the Museum’s archives manager Gabriella Leone, drawing upon the Museum’s collections, original research, and loaned items from Historic Richmond Town and other repositories. This exhibition ties to the Staten Island Museum’s institutional history since Museum Founder Arthur Hollick and his wife Adeline were active Suffragists and collected related periodicals at the time for the Museum’s collection. The Woman Voter and The Suffragist have been digitized and made publicly available online: https://archive.org/details/statenislandmuseum.
Exhibition Advisory Panel:
Susan Goodier is a Lecturer of History at SUNY Oneonta and specializes in U.S. Public Policy History, International Gender and Culture, and Black Women’s History. She is the author of No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement and co-author with Karen Pastorello of Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State.
Catherine Gray is Co-President of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York since 2016 after being a member for more than a decade. She is retired from her job as a librarian with Brooklyn Public Library for over thirty years.
Sarah Litvin is Director of the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture, a new museum and center for civic engagement in Kingston, New York. Sarah was formerly on the curatorial team of the New-York Historical Society’s Center for Women’s History. She completed her PhD in U.S. women’s history in 2019 with a dissertation focused on how women used the upright parlor piano to pursue their far-flung ambitions and expand women’s roles at the turn of the twentieth century.
Margaret Middleton is an independent exhibit designer and museum consultant based in Providence, Rhode Island. They have a BFA in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design and write about the intersection of museum work and social justice movements.
Debbie-Ann Paige is a public historian specializing in African American history, co-president of the newly chartered Richard B. Dickenson Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAGHS) and professional genealogist.
This Exhibition is made possible with lead support from Con Edison and by individual donors. Staten Island Museum is funded in part by the New York State Council on the Arts and public funds provided through the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.