Walk through the front door of the New York State Museum in Albany, New York and the exhibit’s impact is felt immediately in the lobby when viewing the “Spirit of 1776” horse-drawn suffrage campaign wagon used by Quaker activist Edna Buckman Kearns in New York City and Long Island in 1913.
Turn to the right in the direction of the museum’s West Gallery and enter a foyer where larger-than-life images of women activists bridge the past and present. These activist heroines peer at us from 1917, 1977, and 2017 with determined and persistent expressions that keep museum visitors from feeling distant from the exhibit’s content. New York State is the cradle of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Most Americans aren’t even aware of this.
“Votes for Women: Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial” is a large-scale exhibition at the New York State Museum with a companion catalog reflecting a collaboration between three state agencies that will keep this display on public view through May 13, 2018. New York’s men voters approved extending the ballot to women in 1917 after a difficult uphill effort by the state’s women over seven decades.
“Votes for Women” is an exhibit dedicated to the cause of freedom. Several hundred people attended a suffrage history conference sponsored by the NYS Cultural Heritage Tourism Network, in addition to a reception hosted by the NYS League of Women Voters on November 3, 2017, the day before the exhibition opened to the public.
Spirit may be difficult to put into words, but the collection of banners, memorabilia, symbols, tools, multi-media aids, and information panels presented a powerful, stimulating, and provocative reminder of decades of struggle for voting rights.
The exhibit is open to Mother’s Day in May 2018. This is a “must see.”