Tuesday, November 6 is Election Day. Do You Know Where Your Poll Is?
Thanks to the considerable efforts of a load of brave people of the female persuasion like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her daughter and Bloomingdaler Harriot Stanton Blatch, Susan B. Anthony, and Gertrude Foster Brown, it was 101 years ago tomorrow that New York State accorded women the right to vote, helping to pave the way three years later for the 19th Amendment. And by New York State, I really mean New York City, because if you look at the county by county breakdown (scroll all the way down), our urban forebears padded the 80,000 vote margin of victory.
The day that women's suffrage was on the ballot, 12,000 women stood on corners throughout the city encouraging people of the male persuasion, aka the then voters, to grant women the vote.
They were angry women. Docile women. Black women. Chinese women. Uppity and arrogant women. Handsome and plain women. "Women who knew their place." Working women. Moms and daughters. Religious women. Temperate women. Righteous women. Organized women. Women who loved men. Women who loved women. Women who persisted.
And lo! That day nearly half a million men voted with -- and really for -- them all.
The NYC Women Suffrage Party was looking for twice that turnout in support. They advertised in Columbia's Spectator the day before shooting for a million-man team. But I can't fault them for dreaming big.
Harriot had the distinction of living through most of the battle for women's suffrage, beginning as a babe in the arms of her mother, the battle's field marshal. Harriot grew to be a force to be reckoned with in Manhattan as the battle waged on to its glorious end on November 6, 1917.
Says Feiden: "Among [Blatch's] triumphs: In 1907, she founded the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, which trained working-class women to campaign for suffrage and was “open to any woman who earns her own living, from a cook to a mining engineer. Then in 1910, she organized the city’s first blockbuster suffrage parade, a march down Fifth Avenue climaxing in a giant rally in Union Square. Blatch and thousands of like-minded activists transformed virtually every nook and cranny of Manhattan — its streets, salons, townhouses, tenements, clubhouses, concert halls, vaudeville houses, boarding houses, hotels, parks, pools, auditoriums, alleyways and office buildings — into a living, breathing operational base for the suffrage movement."
Vagaries of our 'states rights' vs. 'federal rights' dynamic are evident throughout our legal system, from managing voting, to our banking system, to the electoral college to name only a few. These will likely persist, thanks to our country's reverence for its founding documents. And anyone who rides the subway knows the vagaries of state-controlled city budgets despite larger urban tax bases and headcounts.
What the story of 1917 tells us is that our populousness in the Big Apple matters. It matters to the state. And it matters to the federation. Our votes do count. History bears that out.
Tomorrow, five score and a year later, the country will be looking to New Yorkers again.
Find your poll. Tip your (big, black, feathered) hat to the Stantons, mère et fille. Grab your umbrella. And hit the street, thinking about what corners all across the city looked like 101 years ago: 10, 15, 30 women deep. Recall for a moment those men who voted to enfranchise at long last their wives, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and lovers in the great state of New York.
And make your way to cast your vote as if someone else's suffrage depends on you.