WED, JANUARY 31st: NYS WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE – 100 YEARS!

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This event has now been officially re-scheduled for Wednesday, January 31st.  It will be in two parts:  the first is a tour at the New York Historical Society at 10:30am and then another tour at the Museum of the City of New York at 2:30pm.  We will make a lunch reservation for in between the two events.  In this #metoo moment, it’s important to look at ourselves within the context of a larger, long history.  MWC’ers, please reserve your spot for this important day on the Reservations / Payment page of the website.

2017 is the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage in New York State and to commemorate the historic milestone a number of museums have mounted exhibitions which deal with different aspects of it. The New York Historical Society (NYHS) exhibit, HOTBED, explores the vibrant political and artistic scene of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote.

Immersive installations and more than 100 artifacts and images—drawn from NYHS archives and several private collections—bring to life the bohemian scene and its energetic activist spirit. The NYHS CENTER FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY is the first of its kind in the country within a major museum.  Its mission is to reveal the untold stories of women who have shaped American history – long before they had the vote – through permanent installations, temporary exhibitions and a range of talks and programs.  We will also see the NYHS film WE RISE (trailer below), narrated by Meryl Streep, which gives a terrific overview of the struggle for women’s rights in New York.

Across the park and about 20 blocks uptown, the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) is presenting BEYOND SUFFRAGE: A CENTURY OF WOMEN IN POLITICS.  This exhibit focuses on women’s political activism in New York City, from the struggle to win the vote, through the 20th century and into current times.   It tells the long tale of the fight for women’s suffrage in New York and highlights the battles fought and the issues championed by figures both familiar and not over the course of 100 years.

In the post-suffrage “modern” era, from the 1920’s to 1940’s, BEYOND SUFFRAGE also details how women worked for issues related to health, labor, education and good government.  New York women were central to the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s and the redefining of women’s roles in politics, government, academia, business and religious institutions which informs the current grassroots mobilizations for equal gender rights to this very day.

While New York is often spoken of as an early site for women’s rights, starting with the Seneca Falls (NY) Convention in 1848, that tends to give more credit than is due.  Western states were far more advanced in their attitudes toward women’s rights than Eastern ones were – Wyoming gave women the vote in 1889, just before becoming a state.  In fact, during a dismal period from 1777-1807, soon after the creation of the United States, women’s right to vote were actually REVOKED in most states.  But as various social and religious movements developed – Quakerism, Abolitionism, Anti-Racism, Unionism, Socialism – the limited and unequal role of women was challenged.

In ways  good and bad this past year has been a historic one for women.  Starting with the massive, numerous, rallies last January 20th and leading up to the current and still evolving #metoo movement it’s clear that the story of women’s rights is ongoing.  For the women of New York there is no small irony in the fact that 2017 is the Centennial of a landmark right – but also the year when there has been serious regression in attitudes and legislation related to women.  This year which has seen women and institutions give more credence to sexual harassment – and the need for women to stand up for and speak out about their rights.   These are important developments and understanding them in the context of the history is always helpful.  Join us.

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