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Local News

Celebration of 100th anniversary of women's right to vote victim of covid 19; Freeport organizers still mark the day

For more than a year, Freeport Historical Society members planned an Aug. 26 2020 celebration of the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.

 

Serious events, including speakers, the Irving Township clerk registering people to vote, a skit poking fun at the mores of the time was planned, along with cake, coffee, tea and fellowship. The centerpiece of the event was to be more than 100 women in period dress marching down Freeport’s main street with posters demanding the right to vote, recreating a scene out  of the 1880’s, early 1900’s struggle.  Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office had called to discuss her possible involvement.

 

However, along with most other events planned for the 2020 summer season, the corona virus forced the abandonment of their plans. But Society organizers wouldn’t let the day pass without some kind of recognition.

 

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, several ladies in clothing depicting the era, long skirts,  long sleeved blouses, large brimmed hats, and sashes and joined by three men, marched in the village with posters demanding the right to vote to formerly recognize the day when American women won the right to legally vote for the first time.

 

“Those women were trailblazers. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to vote today,” Society Vice President Sherry Graham said. “We had to do something.”

 

 “My grandmother was in the first generation of women to legally vote, so I feel a connection,” Society Treasurer Colleen Smelker said. “We wanted to do something to honor the women who worked so hard so we could vote today.” Smelker said the cancellation “was really disappointing, but things happen.”

However, many members say they are ready to stage the 101st anniversary in 2021.

 

The woman’s suffrage movement unofficially began in 1848, when a women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The meeting was not the first in support of women's rights, but suffragists later viewed it as the meeting that launched the movement. Just one young lady at the convention lived long enough to vote, but she was too ill to go to the polls.

 

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other many women were critical to the movement. They fought for the right to vote despite widespread condemnation, derision and mistreatment. At that time, women couldn’t own property, go to college, walk on the street unescorted, speak in public and if divorced, left the marriage with no money or contact with their children.

 

Tortured, jailed and put in asylums, women still registered and demanded the right to vote. They persevered, suffering indignities and shame until August, 1920 when they won the right to vote in local, state and federal elections.

 

The Tri-River Historical Society, a network of 33 member museums in Barry, Eaton, Ionia, Kent and Montcalm counties adopted “Celebrating Women’s Right to Vote- 1920-2020” as its theme this year.

 

 

Photo cutlines: Taking part in the parade to mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote are, (front, left to right) Dave Yoder, Natalie Cairns, Lavonne Yoder, Sue Thaler, Mary  Ellen Miner, Darla Burghdoff, Colleen Smelker, Sherry Graham, Dick Dolate and Tim Miner.

 

Darla Burghdoff portrays a suffragette during the planning of the event.

 

A small parade marking the formal observance of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote was held in Freeport Wednesday after the main event with more than 100 marchers was cancelled due to the covid 19 virus.

 

Lavonne Yoder joins the group of marchers in Freeport Wednesday to observe women winning the right to vote. 

 

 

 

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