by Beth Young
It will be 100 years this fall since women got the right to vote in New York State. While ground zero of the women’s suffrage movement in New York is considered to be Seneca Falls, on the north side of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, many Long Island women were at the forefront of the statewide suffrage movement, and local women’s voting rights groups are making sure their forebears are remembered this year.
The League of Women Voters of the Hamptons is celebrating this month with a re-enactment of a suffrage rally that took place in East Hampton in August of 1913, beginning at the former home of May Groot Manson, a voting rights pioneer who lived at 117 Main Street, across from the First Presbyterian Church.
The year 1913 was a hotbed of women’s suffrage hikes and rallies, with women marching from New York City to Albany and Washington DC in the quest for the vote.
Wearing white and decked in satin sashes emblazoned with the words “Votes for Women,” the reenactment marchers will convene at 2 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the historic marker placed this spring by the League and East Hampton Village at May Groot Manson’s house.
Mary Jane Brock, who now owns Ms. Manson’s house, will meet the marchers, who will parade down Main Street to the East Hampton Library for a celebratory program, with speakers including Coline Jenkins of Connecticut, a descendent of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who co-chaired the 1848 Seneca Falls Conference that sparked the women’s suffrage movement in New York, and of Ms. Cady Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, who spoke at the 1913 rally in East Hampton.
The East Hampton Star reported on the 1913 meeting that “the suffrage meeting on Saturday afternoon was most successful. After threatening clouds in the morning the sky cleared. The common decorated by Mrs. Albert Herter, presented a charming appearance with twenty flying pennants of purple, white and green and the pretty speakers’ stand given for the occasion by Ms. Herter. The afternoon’s proceedings began by a reception for the speakers, Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch and Miss Helen Todd, on the lawn of Mrs. Manson’s home. At four o’clock the assembled suffragists, about 150 in number, formed into a small procession and headed by the band from Sag Harbor walked to the common, the women wearing the “votes for women” sash and carrying purple and green pennants as in the parade in New York.”
East Hampton wasn’t the only Long Island hotbed of women’s suffrage, said Dr. Natalie Naylor, who gave a presentation titled “Winning Votes for Women: A Centennial Remembrance” at the Southampton Historical Museum July 13, though the referendum giving women the right to vote passed with 60 percent of the vote in the easternmost South Fork town, compared with just 54 percent statewide.
Lisabeth Halsey White, a descendent of one of Southampton’s founding families, the Halseys, also was a voting rights pioneer, helping to host debates, to lobby the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead and hosted many meetings planning the local suffrage movement, said Dr. Naylor.
Ms. Halsey White lived in the Post House on Southampton’s Main Street, and LWV members are considering looking in to putting up a historic marker there as well.
To sign up for the Aug. 24 march or to purchase a Votes for Women sash ($10, contact LWV publicity chair Arlene Hinkemeyer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Attendees are asked to wear white or period garb and, if they’d like, hold up a sign representing one of the prominent marchers in the 1913 rally.
The marchers listed in the 1913 East Hampton Star article include a wide range of prominent East Hampton men and women of the time, including painters Adele and Albert Herter, who owned The Creeks on Georgica Pond, and their son Everit Herter, who died in World War I, after whom the East Hampton VFW post is named; Victoria Dominy of the furniture and windmill-making Dominy family; Mrs. L.E. Woodhouse, whose family were benefactors of the East Hampton Library and Guild Hall; avid art collectors Mr. and Mrs. William Wheelock and their son, poet John Wheelock; Miss Ruth Moran, daughter of Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran and Mr. and Mrs. John Drew, after whom Guild Hall’s theater is named.
The march will be taped by LTV and included in an Oct. 19 lecture at the East Hampton Library on the 100th Anniversary.