Weekly Feature



2017-11-08 / Front Page

Kenmore gala celebrates centennial of NY women’s right to vote

by BETH HUTCHINSON
Copy Editor

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was among the 100-plus enthusiastic women and girls — and some men — who filled the sanctuary of the Kenmore United Methodist Church on Sunday for a celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in New York State.

Historical figures in period clothing, along with early 1900s’ jazz from the Fredtown Stompers band, turned the clock back to 1917 when New York women won the right to vote three years before that occurred in the U.S.

“The women’s rights movement began in no state other than ours,” Hochul told the crowd, recounting the gathering of some 300 people in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. “The women of the time, and some of the men with them, were fed up.”

Hochul said women were tired of being treated like property and didn’t have the right to vote. She quoted Frederick Douglass, the only African-American man in the room at the time, who said, “Women’s rights are all of our rights.”


Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, speaks to the audience at the Sunday celebration of the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in New York, while Christine Bettinger, left, as Alice Paul and Patricia Conway Wille as Carrie Chapman Catt, represent some famous suffragists during the program hosted by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society at Kenmore United Methodist Church. 
Photos by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, speaks to the audience at the Sunday celebration of the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in New York, while Christine Bettinger, left, as Alice Paul and Patricia Conway Wille as Carrie Chapman Catt, represent some famous suffragists during the program hosted by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society at Kenmore United Methodist Church. Photos by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com While the right to vote was a long time coming, Hochul said women took to the street, rallied, protested and never gave up. She noted that Susan B. Anthony was arrested for illegally voting in the presidential election in 1872 and was found guilty.

“I was so proud of her because she never paid the fine that was levied against her,” Hochul said.

The lieutenant governor said that eventually the suffragists were hard to ignore, especially when, in 1916, they were able to secure the signatures of more than 1 million women to present to the governor and legislature.

But Hochul, calling for some applause for the men, reminded the audience that “only men could vote, so only men could vote for women to have the right to vote.”

Hochul said there is still work to do today related to women’s rights, adding that there are not enough women in boardrooms and not enough women in elected offices.

“One hundred years from now, what will they say about us?” Hochul asked. “I submit to you that in 2017 we have a moral responsibility to pass along the flame.”

Hochul gave a nod to the Girls Scouts involved in Sunday’s event, saying the governor asked her to chair the Women’s Suffrage Centennial and in every event she has attended she has seen Girl Scouts. Hochul said she needs them to spread the suffragists’ story.

The lieutenant governor added that there is an intention to take the celebration all the way through 2020 when the country experiences the 100th-year anniversary of the 19th amendment.

Several other speakers quoted from the writings and speeches of the suffragists.

Katherine Conway Turner, president of Buffalo State College, quoted Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for the presidency — before women had the right to vote.

“Why is a woman to be treated differently?” said Woodhull, who made her run in 1872. “Woman suffrage will succeed, despite this miserable guerilla opposition.”

Patricia Conway Wille, of the League of Women Voters, quoted Carrie Chapman Catt, who founded the organization.

“The vote is the emblem of your equality and the guarantee of your liberty,” Catt said.

There were also some anti suffragist quotes, including this one from Mrs. William Force Scott, read by Kimberlee Sabshin:

“If women should vote,” Scott told the gathering, “they must join one of the existing political parties or form a new party of their own — a Woman’s Party — and that would be women against men, and more dangerous than labor against capital.”

While the audience sometimes cheered the quotes, this one and others like it elicited groans.

Melissa Foster, founder and president of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society, which presented Sunday’s event, said, “We’re not here to do any man-bashing,” but she said she can’t forget what the character Mrs. Banks said in “Mary Poppins”: “Though we adore men individually, we can agree that as a group they are rather stupid.”

Of the suffragists, Foster said, “They were invincible, and they are wonderfully inspirational now.”

Others who participated in Sunday’s event included the Rev. Bonnie LeValley; Pati Aine Guzinski and Karen Fritsch, Zonta Club; Erick Cowles; Brooke Smith, Junior League of Buffalo; Kevin Hardwick, Erie County legislator; Brenda McDuffie, Buffalo Urban League; and Claire, Grace and Jessica Lonski Miller.

Also, John Percy, retired Village of Kenmore/Town of Tonawanda historian; Karen King, executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women; Isabella and Amy Fusani; and Anne Evanko, founder of the Western New York Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.

The Girls Scouts involved in the event were Daisy Troop 30081, Brownie Troop 30209, Junior Troop 30308 and Cadette Troop 39143, with leader Anne Lesnewski.

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