Written by J.M. Wasko
Don’t sit this Saturday out! August 26 is your last chance to meet suffragists from 100 years ago during Centennial Summer—and it’s also the perfect way to spend Women’s Equality Day! In conjunction with the exhibition World War I Beyond the Trenches, our new, trained staff of Living Historians will bring to life women’s fight for rights on the home front.
There are so many historic things to do when you meet a suffragist! Besides answering all of your questions about winning the vote, they’ll also tell you about their clothing from the early 20th century and what their accessories symbolize. You might even receive a handbill made by the Woman Suffrage Party in the 1910s to tell you all of the reasons why women should vote. (As if you needed convincing!)
Once you’re ready to show your support, you can make your very own wearable cockade, which is like a badge. In parades, suffragists carried signs, banners, buttons, flags, and more with all sorts of messages for those watching, so you and your family get to choose your own way to call for “Votes for Women”!
Every suffragist you meet is different, though, so we asked them to tell us their favorite part of being a DiMenna Children’s History Museum Living Historian this summer:
“As a fashion historian, I have found it fascinating to see how Museum visitors react to the antique dress I wear for weekend programs. The 1910s are a difficult time period for most people to place because the fashions reflect traces of the elaborate designs from the Edwardian era, yet appear reasonably modern due to the absence of the corset. It has been a wonderful opportunity to educate visitors on the long struggle for women’s voting rights and the concurrent fight for dress reform from the mid-19th century and into the 20th.”–Raissa Bretaña
“One of the most rewarding experiences of teaching is that ‘a-ha!’ moment you receive from children who understand a concept. While portraying a suffragist from a century ago, seeing those moments from the young ladies who visited us spoke to me about how far we have come in the fight for equality—but also how far we have left to go in that fight.”
“My favorite moments have been when we excite both children and grown-ups alike. It’s really something when the children are so engaged in the craft or conversation—and then you look over at the parents and they are clearly moved and excited as well.”
“This experience interpreting the suffragist movement as a black woman has been empowering. The involvement of both African American men and women in the suffragist movement has been hidden or completely overlooked, and it has been a pleasure to rediscover and share these stories with the New-York Historical Society.”
“It’s been incredibly inspiring to interpret the New York women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century and to shine a light on a variety of different angles: everything from the history of the movement from it’s origins overseas, to the political groundswell and activism it inspired, to it’s effect on cultural norms and even clothing of the era! It’s been especially exciting to explain the meaning and symbolism behind the suffrage postcard propaganda, the sort of “social media” of the time, allowing our visitors to interpret images in new ways and draw their own parallels between 1917 and 2017.”
Give a warm round of thanks to the suffragists when you see them this Saturday! And don’t forget to keep an eye on our Family Calendar for our other remaining Centennial Saturday programs where you can meet President Woodrow Wilson or make alliances with WWI soldiers.