As New Zealand celebrates its 120th anniversary of women voting, the awareness of a contender is putting suffrage centennials on notice. Those in New Zealand’s government take the 120th anniversary seriously with special events and programming. However, the Pacific island of Pitcairn claims the position of the first country granting women the right to vote 175 years ago in 1838. So women’s suffrage fans, take note. It boils down to the definition of “country,” as to which nation holds the distinction of being the first. Pitcairn claims that being a territory of the UK still entitles it to be called a country. And on November 29th they held their suffrage celebration with the men of the island preparing a feast for the women while greetings and best wishes poured in from all over the world. Pitcairn has 19 women and 17 men of voting age. Most of the island’s inhabitants are descendants of sailors who staged a mutiny on a British ship in 1789.
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The politics of the Harriet Tubman historic site in Auburn, New York becoming a national park is very much in the news. Since 2013 is the centennial year of Tubman’s death, there is considerable interest in this subject that was compounded when U.S. President Obama visited Seneca Falls, NY in August and then stayed overnight only a few miles from the Tubman home and museum without visiting it. The no-show ruffled some feathers, while others were more philosophical about the event. The Auburn, NY Harriet Tubman historic site is located in the “Cradle” of the women’s rights movement in the U.S. which is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. A bill is in the U.S. Congress to make Tubman historic sites in NYS and Maryland one national park. The politics of this possibility are highlighted in these two accounts by Marguerite Kearns and Olivia Twine in New York History: Article #1. Article #2. Kearns and Twine can be found on LetsRockTheCradle.com
The state of Indiana was the first state east of the Mississippi to grant women the right to vote. That was back in 1913, so there isn’t much time before the big centennial baton moves on. The actual news items from the state itself give a flavor of what people there are saying about this occasion. There has been a play about Chicago women: #1. #2. Chicago historian Cecille Gerber who presented a special program. In this piece, she speaks about the importance of this centennial occasion. #1. #2. And the Illinois League of Women Voters turned out for a special celebration.
One hundred years ago a huge storm on the Long Island coast destroyed the memorial erected to author, reporter, activist Margaret Fuller. She was an important influence to the suffragists of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s generations and many women after that. If there was a film to be made between now and 2020 (the centennial of women voting in the US), it should be about Margaret Fuller. Several excellent books have been published in the last few years to reviews of acclaim. Commentators note that Margaret Fuller’s story has romance, great characters, and all the elements of a good film, as well as having the potential of being a significant contribution to American history. The only problem is that not many people know about Margaret Fuller, and a potential film doesn’t fit the action genre. There are no car crashes, but there is a boat wreck at the end. Margaret not only rubbed elbows with Horace Greeley, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson, but they admired her mind and ideas and benefitted from knowing her. Several called her an inspiration.
So the idea of a film is out there circulating around. Anyone taking it on will have an uphill project, and a great film in the end. Another possibility is re-establishing the memorial to Margaret Fuller. A memorial to Margaret was established on the Long Island coastline at the turn of the 20th century, and it was destroyed in a big storm in 1913. So, it’s the centennial of the wrecking of the memorial. Seems like this could go on someone’s “to do” list for the upcoming 2017 New York State suffrage centennial. Raising money for some sort of a memorial would go a long way to bringing Margaret’s story to life if no one steps up to the challenge of a film about Margaret Fuller. And it would be a draw on Long Island for visitors and cultural tourism.
If there’s any grave rolling associated with abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman, it’s all about a video released by Russell Simmons. The video itself has been taken off the internet, but the edited versions circulating around give a feeling for the piece entitled “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape.” And it has been giving Harriet Tubman and her life renewed interest. The video has performers known to the general public, plus the internet is filled with commentary about what happened, who reacted and why. All of this is in the context of the centennial, or 100 year anniversary of Tubman’s death.
At the end of her life, Tubman campaigned intensely for women’s rights and even collaborated with Susan B. Anthony on lecture tours. Which makes this news update a suffrage centennial feature. The fuzz caused a Washington Post reporter to point out that Harriet Tubman has been trending on Twitter. Harriet Tubman lived in Auburn, NY and is buried there. It’s in the Cradle of the Women’s Rights movement in the United State, and Auburn is well worth a visit. If you don’t have plans to travel this fall, at least sign up for the blogging tour on LetsRockTheCradle.com You can vicariously visit the town where Harriet made a mark. Think about it.
Who says a suffrage centennial now and again doesn’t open doors? Not us. The UK is abuzz with news that UK performer Carey Mulligan has put everything aside to negotiate a role in “The Fury,” a feature film about the suffragette movement. It has been kicking around behind the scenes for a few years, and various suffrage centennials have rescued and brought the subject matter to the attention of the media biggies. The Votes for Women centennial, for example, kicked off this year with 100 years observance for Emily Davison with a documentary, plus all sorts of cultural and political events (including an opera). And now, there’s a suffragette sit com, “Up the Women,” that has been signed up for another season. We can’t see these programs, at least for now. But it certainly will stimulate the market when the wave of interest hits our shores. Meanwhile, Norway is having its suffrage centennial. See our coverage. Suffrage centennials are great, and even greater if they’re connected to what’s happening today. The Norwegian conference planned for November fits perfectly.
Norway has put considerable time and effort into its centenary of women’s right to vote. The June special programs may be over, but there’s an upcoming international conference in the works, plus excellent materials and graphic representations of the observance. Details of the November conference are still being ironed out, but there’s plenty to look over while we’re waiting for more details. See conference schedule and contact information.
The 1913 mass English suffrage march didn’t get the same publicity that the suffragette movement garnered the same year that Emily Davison became a martyr after being trampled by the King’s horse. However, women today are walking and marching in England, following the same route, and celebrating their suffrage history along the way. There are parties and special programs, in addition to the performance of a theatrical piece called “Oxygen.” The story of this 1913 march that ended in a rally with 50,000 people in attendance almost was lost in the shadow of reporting on the more militant wing of the suffrage movement in England. The ways in which this is being played out today is a fascinating study. See #1. #2. Details about the march as it will be passing through Corsham. #1. #2. Photo from the Guardian coverage.
This reading by Amelia Bolen is Part I of the story about how suffrage activists didn’t pass up the opportunity to attend the 1876 centennial celebration of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1876. In this first person account by Elizabeth Cady Stanton from her memoir, we’re treated to a visual blow-by-blow description of how these activists worked together to make their point and deliver a reminder that the nation’s women citizens would not rest until they’d made their point that the American Revolution remained unfinished as far as women were concerned. This audio recording is a suffrage centennial special. Image: Library of Congress.