Rural Voices on the Path to Women’s Rights Exhibit Open House- Friday, April 7 from 6 to 7 pm

In recognition of the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State in 2017, the Southworth Library will open a unique exhibition called “ Rural Voices on the Path to Women’s Rights“.  It is a collection of some of the history of suffrage and notable women in the rural communities in parts of Tompkins County taken from the time of the landmark vote.  The exhibit, which will travel to each of the rural libraries in Tompkins County, consists of 9 panels that explore daily life for women in rural areas, the pro and anti-suffrage sentiment and notable stories of women in each area. On Friday, April 7 at 6 p.m., the Southworth Library welcomes Dr. Karen Pastorello , Professor of History  and Women and Gender Studies and co-author of “Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State”(September 2017) for an overview of rural women and the suffrage movement.

Historians and librarians from the towns of Dryden, Groton, Lansing, Newfield and Trumansburg gathered the stories they felt typified the women of their area. 

“The stories of women at that time were a bit elusive,” says Diane Pamel, project director and the person responsible for identifying relevant information from the Town of Dryden. “Women were not in the forefront of the news at that time, especially for their political views.  I originally conceived of this project because so many vital stories of the amazing women in our past are lost. I wanted to give them voice and encourage the women of today to capture the stories and sentiments of their own families and the women in their past. While historic research can be overwhelming, it is also fascinating to discover the stories and events of our past”

Using resources available in scrapbooks, newspapers, personal accounts as well as digital collections and newspapers, the stories of these women and their voices emerged, providing a wonderful snapshot into the past and the women who, sometimes unobtrusively, influenced their communities. The stories range from those actively involved in suffrage, to the quiet social changers; from the angelic to the diabolical; from the individual to the groups who created social universities for their sisters.  

“To the women– the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters who kept the home fires burning, reared children, nursed the sick and suffered the privations and hardship of pioneer life through all the history of the human race—equal recognition and reward must be given.” – Free Press and Sentinel, Vol/ 64 no. 28, Friday, July 12, 1929

In order to add current relevancy and to create conversation, the final panel of the exhibit asks:” Where Do We Go From Here?” A sample of women who were surveyed was created and answers recorded for the following questions:” When did you first vote?”, “What motivated you to vote?”, “How has voting changed for you since then? “. Women continue to have influence on the political process.  In the presidential election of 2012, fifty-three percent of all voters were women, so their votes in essence decided the presidency!

We hope the exhibit encourages meaningful conversation.  In order to facilitate that conversation, the Southworth Library will also host a Community Conversation on Democracy on Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m. at the library with Professor David Flaten, (TC3- Political Science). It will include a guided discussion of short essays as well as time to reflect on the exhibit.  All are invited.

The exhibit was made possible through a generous Humanities New York Vision grant with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Community Conversation is also funded with support from Humanities New York.

Humanities New York provides leadership and support across the state through grants, programs, networking and advocacy, encouraging critical thinking and cultural understanding in the public arena.

Humanities NY expands the field of the public humanities by supporting projects that activate, frame, or deepen our understanding of what it means to be human.

To learn more, contact the library at director@southworthlibrary.org.