A century ago, our country was very different, to say the least: Prohibition was in full swing, World War I had just ended and the National Football League didn’t yet exist. What’s more? Women didn’t have the right to vote. The fight for women’s suffrage was set in motion in July 1848, when the inaugural Women’s Rights Convention was held just 180 miles west of Saratoga Springs in Seneca Falls, NY. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the organizer of the convention, was born in Johnstown, NY, 33 miles west of Saratoga, and graduated from Emma Willard School in Troy, which, at the time, was called Troy Female Seminary. Three hundred people attended the convention, and it was there that the Declaration of Sentiments, which served as an agenda for women’s rights for decades to come, was signed by 68 women and 32 men, including abolitionist and human rights activist Frederick Douglass.
Nearly seven decades later, New York State granted women the right to vote, making the state the first in the eastern part of the United States to do so. Two years after that, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution, granting women access to the fundamental right to vote.
That makes this year—2019—the centennial of women’s suffrage. And while the US has certainly come a long way since 1919, there are many people and organizations who still feel women have a long way to go in the fight for equal rights. One such organization is the Queens-based Civically Re-Engaged Women (CREW), whose members strive to engage women in the advocacy and advancement of fundamental rights. “Right now there’s so much toxicity with how we relate to each other as people,” says Sharon Nelson, CREW’s CEO and President. “It’s good to know these things from the past, because if we don’t know our past, we repeat the same mistakes over and over again in life.”
To honor the women’s suffrage centennial, CREW will be hosting the 2019 Seneca Falls Revisited Convention and Retreat right here in Saratoga Springs at the Gideon Putnam August 25-27. The convention will acknowledge the importance of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, examine the present and make plans for the future of American women. It will also include workshops about topics such as gun violence and Harriet Tubman’s legacy. Speakers will include Coline Jenkins, a descendant of Stanton, and Saratoga’s own Mayor Meg Kelly, and the honorary chairs will be Gale Brewer, president of the Manhattan Borough; Deborah Devedjian, founder and chief citizens’ officer of thechisel.com and Kenneth Morris, cofounder and president of The Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.
Besides the convention and retreat, interested parties can also venture to the national’s capital for a special exhibit at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, entitled Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. The exhibit, which explores the history of the passage of the 19th amendment and its impact, opened in May, just in time for the actual centennial on June 4. It will run through January 2021. As of July 7, the exhibit had already had more than 50,000 visitors. “I hope that men and women of all generations will come to the exhibit and see the story of generations of Americans who have struggled for their place at the polls today,” says Corinne Porter, the exhibit’s curator. “That’s something that they’ll be reminded of and hopefully inspired by, in particular as they consider heading off to their polling place on Election Day.”