By Joan Gaylord
The historic Putnam County Court House will be lit up in yellow, purple and white lights on Wednesday in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.
Women’s Equality Day, which is commemorated Aug. 26, has been celebrated each year since 1972 to celebrate the 19th Amendment being signed into law. The colors are the same as those adopted by the suffragettes who worked tirelessly to help pass the amendment.
“This is a tribute in lights!” said Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell, the first woman to hold the office. “In my lifetime, the government of Putnam County changed from an all-male Board of Supervisors to a male county executive and predominantly all-male legislature. I’ve been part of an amazing transformation over the years.”
Putnam County boasts a proud history of women who were active in the suffrage movement, said Jennifer Cassidy of the Putnam County Historian’s Office. She said the area “was hard won for women’s right to vote; many areas weren’t in support of it.”
Cassidy highlighted the work of Putnam County residents such as Elizabeth Selden White Rogers who was arrested for picketing outside the White House. Cassidy shared that Rogers and her fellow protesters were tried, convicted and sentenced to 60 days at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia. Under significant pressure, President Woodrow Wilson pardoned the women after a few days.
These stories will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Putnam History Museum, “HerStory: Putnam County Women and the Vote.” The exhibit will explore the activities of the suffrage movement locally and illustrate how it was part of the national effort.
The museum hopes to be able to open the exhibit to the public sometime in September. Until then, a virtual tour can be found at my.matterport.com.
Odell shared a political cartoon by Elmer Andrews Bushnell titled “The Sky is Now Her Limit.” First published in 1920, it shows a young woman standing before a ladder of women’s accomplishments including stenography, war workers and women’s suffrage. Higher rungs include rights that women have still not received a century later, including equal wages.
“I find this piece inspiring, because it was published in August of 1920 to celebrate the 19th Amendment,” said Odell, “but, 100 years later, it reminds us that we are still on our way up.”