A Celebration of the Political Voices & Many Talents of Dutchess County Women
August 2020 is the 100th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage as a National Right
Women's right to vote became a national right in August of 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitutional. Prior to that, the right had been advancing state by state.
The formal start to the national effort is considered to have been 150 miles northwest of Dutchess County, with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and its Declaration of Sentiments. Victory in New York came 69 years later in a successful November 1917 referendum.
This series of essays begins to tell the story of that experience in Dutchess County. The long arc of the movement means that the first generation of leaders did not live to see national victory.
The first generation of leaders was marked by women with Quaker backgrounds. Dutchess County's large 19th century Quaker population, and highly its regarded Quaker boarding school, is seen in the the stories of the many Quaker women involved in the national movement. Perhaps the most famous is Lucretia Coffin Mott, one of the five organizers of the 1848 convention. Mott's extended family lived in the Town of Washington where she attended the Nine Partners Boarding School. There she became a teacher and met her husband.
The story of the second generation of activists, largely from 1910, shows collaboration across Dutchess County's varied social classes. The river estate elite. Vassar College. Working and immigrant classes. The emerging middle class. And rural, sometimes quite poor farm communities.
The work across two generations, the unified effort of a variety of social classes in the early 20th century, marked by the extraordinary performance of women as the US got involved in WW1 in April of 1917, added up to a successful referendum in November of 1917. While winning at a NY State level, the referendum gained only 48% support in Dutchess County.