It’s the centennial of woman’s suffrage in New York. But there is no suffrage story without the anti-suffrage story.
WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas attended the opening of an exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art that shows the capital was considered a bastion of the anti-suffrage movement.
The years leading up to 1917 were fraught with difficulty both politically and personally for women on both sides of the argument. Not every woman wanted the right to vote. Tammis Groft is executive director of the Albany Institute of History & Art: "The exhibition that we have here, really tells the story of women, the women who first met in 1894 before the New York Constitutional Convention convened, and organized the Albany branch of the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. They lobbied to make their views heard in 1915, ultimately of course, lost in 1917."
It's hard to imagine American women not having the right to vote today. The exhibition serves to tell a compelling story about a group of women — 8,000 in all, who were simply not interested. "And it's also connected directly to the Albany Institute of History & Art because quite a number of the meetings were held at Albany Institute. And if you look at the list of people who were involved in the anti-suffrage movement, you'll see that many of them are very familiar to us because they're the wives of the board members at the Albany Institute."
As we toured the exhibit, I asked the Institute's Patrick Stenshorn to describe the mindset of the anti-suffragists. "They believed that the role for women in society was in the home and their way to advance society was through charitable work, through educating their kids by raising good citizens but not necessarily being active in the political process."
College of St. Rose President Carolyn Stefanco is a guest curator for the exhibit's section on suffrage. She notes that New York was also central to the pro-suffrage crusade. "At Seneca Falls, the women's rights movement really emerged in an official way as a movement. And so many of the significant proponents for women's suffrage came to New York, worked in New York, were headquartered in New York, and so New York really, the state as well as Albany, really played such a significant role in both of these stories, and of course, they're intertwined."
Albany Democratic state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy believes activists today should take note of what their 20th century counterparts did and did not accomplish. "And I think this is what we've lost a little bit in society, especially these days at the national level. We've forgotten how to listen and learn from both sides."
The exhibit runs through spring.
Exhibition Events & Programs (more to be announced):
- Spotlight: Albany & Anti-Suffrage | gallery talk | Thursday, September 7 | 1PM | Included with museum admission
- Spotlight: Albany & Anti-Suffrage | gallery talk | Thursday, September 14 | 1PM | Included with museum admission
- Votes for Women: Examining the Woman Suffrage and Anti-Suffrage Movements through Political Cartoons | Humanities New York Public Scholars Program | Sunday, September 17 | 2PM | Free admission
- Women's Suffrage: A Documented History | reading + discussion series | Thursdays, September 21—October 26 | 6PM |Free, but registration required |This program is made possible by a grant from Humanities New York
- Voting 101: Everything We Forgot or Never Knew about Elections and Voting in New York State | community event| Thursday, October 5 | 6PM | Free admission
- More about the Albany Institute of History & Art: Founded in 1791, the Albany Institute of History & Art is New York’s oldest museum. Its collections document the Hudson Valley as a crossroads of culture, influencing the art and history of the region, the state, and the nation.
For additional information, visit www.albanyinstitute.org and follow the Institute on Facebook (www.facebook.com/albanyinstitute), Twitter (@AlbanyInstitute), as well as on Instagram (AlbanyInstitute).