The Historical Society of Woodstock’s summer exhibit, Gathering Woodstock Women: A Celebration of the New York State Women’s Suffrage Centennial, is lauded in the first edition of How Women Won the Vote, a 24-page Special Gazette tabloid published by the California-based National Women’s History Project (www.nwhp.org). The iconic photograph of four Woodstock women standing on the steps of a polling place after voting for the first time in 1918 accompanies a few paragraphs titled, “What One Small Town in New York Did with Women’s History.”
In 2015 the Woodstock Town Board passed a resolution — now noted as a model for the nation — to encourage individuals, businesses and groups to hold events to honor the New York State and National Suffrage Centennials in 2017 and 2020. HSW’s innovative Gathering Woodstock Women exhibit, wherein local residents wrote about the contributions of women from the past, was one of many positive outcomes. Also, The Woodstock School of Art and HSW cooperated to present an exhibit by women artists, and the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and the Arts produced a comprehensive “Suffrage Centennial Guide.”
Edited by award-winning writer Robert P.J. Cooney, the Gazette calls for declaring August 26, 2020 a national holiday. The 19th Amendment securing the right to vote for women was ratified by Congress on that day in 1920. The tabloid describes suffrage campaigns that occurred in each State and hails the “Breakthrough in New York” in 1917 as “The Critical Victory” that tipped the scales in favor of universal suffrage for American women. The late New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug (“Battling Bella”) referred to August 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1970 when a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.
To promote a national holiday for women, the Gazette offers a sample resolution to be introduced by citizens to all levels of government. (See www.nwhp.org.) “Make sure that your city council, board of supervisors, state and federal officials issue proclamations,” The Gazette states. “Help ensure that the right to vote and the legacy of American suffragists are recognized and celebrated.” The Gazette is rich with information and resources to promote women’s rights.
In an interview with Woodstock Times, Cooney explained how he came to be an expert in the subject. “I was interested in history, particularly the American tradition of non-violent social change movements; the peace movement during the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, and now environmentalism,” Cooney said. “I realized that Women’s Suffrage was one of the major non-violent campaigns and that it hadn’t been studied much. I wrote about it in one of my first books 20 years ago, Power of the People.” Since then, Cooney has written several books in the genre, including the comprehensive tome, Winning the Vote; the Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement, published in 2005.
What goals may be attained by celebrating suffrage centennials and recognizing women’s rights with a national holiday known as Women’s Equality Day? “The goal is to emphasize the importance of voting and to honor the sacrifices made by the suffragists who won this right with a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Cooney said, adding, “Empowerment, absolutely, is a goal of designating a national holiday. Women are not represented in any way on the national calendar, while there are many memorials to war.”
The HSW celebration of women’s contributions to Woodstock continues with an event called “Gathering Woodstock’s Women: Readings About Six Women in the Exhibit” at the Eames House Museum on Saturday, August 26 at noon. The subjects include Jane VanDeBogart, Sarah MacDaniel Cashdollar, Augusta Allen, Mescal Hornbeck, Helen Buttrick and Anita Smith. Copies of The Gazette will be available while they last. The HSW’s Eames House Museum is located at 20 Comeau Drive. Admission is free. For more information, see www.historicalsocietyofwoodstock.org.