Anthology Released to Celebrate Centennial of Women's Suffrage in New York State

  • On Oct. 26, a launch party for the book NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology was held at the History Center of Tompkins County

  • Tompkins County legislature declared 2017 the “Year of the Woman” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York state

Copies of the anthology at the launch party, photo by Tara Stacy

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the women's suffrage act in New York state. Stacey Murphy and Nora Snyder, leaders of the Writer’s Block Party, which is a group of writers in the Ithaca community, were inspired by the idea of the centennial, especially after Tompkins County legislature decided to name 2017, “the Year of the Woman.”

The two women decided to reach out to members of their group of writers and ask them to write stories or poems detailing their feelings about the women’s suffrage movement, as well as their feelings on women’s rights in general.

Launch of the Anthology

The History Center of Tompkins County decided to work with Murphy and Snyder to have a launch party for the anthology on Oct. 26. The launch involved readings from some of the contributors including Carol Kammen, Gaia Woolf-Nightingall, Lisa Harris, Nora Snyder, Sarah Jefferis and Yvonne Fisher.

Many of the women were inspired by the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Fisher’s reading detailed her excitement leading up to the election, as well as her disappointment when she realized that Clinton would not be the next president. Fisher had been an activist for women for as long as she could remember, and had been euphoric that women would finally be able to thrive in the highest office, paving the way for more young girls in the years to come.

She noted however, that it was the suffragists that came before her that gave her and so many others the confidence to carry on after the election.

“Even when we get beaten down, we still get up and keep moving,” Fisher said. “They taught us to congregate, to make plans and strategize. We marched in Washington D.C., in New York City, in Ithaca, all over the country and throughout the world.”

Fisher said that it was the suffragists that gave women throughout the country that confidence to march through wind, rain and resistance, and that it was their strength that would help those that had so firmly believed in justice carry on. She hopes that women will be able to continue to resist authoritarianism and hate.

Snyder said that she drew her inspiration from her young daughter, who asked her questions about why so many women felt the need to put each other down on social media.

“Social media has become a new arena to make comparisons,” Snyder said. “Momentum cannot be built on shame. Once we start working on obligation and not motivation, and parsing out whose efforts matter and whose don’t, who is sacrificing enough and who is not, we become dangerously close to determining who has a value as a person.”

Snyder said that she advocates bringing in a new chapter in the movement, one where every person, not just women, is able to fight for something that they are passionate about, as well as accept everyone’s relevance in the movement.

Portraits of NY State Suffragists

The history center is also featuring an exhibit by Christine Heller, “Truth is the Only Safe Ground to Stand Upon: Portraits of NY State Suffragists,” which features drawings of suffragists and strong women in history in that state that fought for women’s rights.

Photo features drawings by Christine Heller of Juanita Breckenridge Bates and Louisa Lord Riley, photo by Tara Stacy

Heller featured women from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Harriet Tubman, and even a woman that led the women’s suffrage movement in Ithaca, Juanita Breckenridge Bates. Heller’s exhibit will be shown until Nov. 4.

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© 2016 by Tara Stacy