Southworth Library first stop for Women’s Suffrage exhibit

Tompkins Weekly Staff

DRYDEN – An exhibit celebrating the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York state – “Rural Voices on the Path to Women’s Rights” – will travel throughout Tompkins County during 2017.

Photo Provided
Mary Lynch, Jeanne Lange and Char Jeffris look at the Women’s Suffrage exhibit on display through April at Southworth Library in Dryden.

Southworth Library in Dryden is the first library to play host, according to information provided by the library, to 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 consists of nine panels that explore daily life for women in rural areas, the pro and anti-suffrage sentiment and notable stories of women in each area.

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?” and “How has voting changed for you since then?” Women continue to have influence on the political process; in the presidential election of 2012, 53 percent of all voters were women.

In an effort to facilitate that conversation, Southworth will be hosting a “Community Conversation on Democracy” at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at the library. David Flaten, a professor of Political Science at Tompkins Cortland Community College, will speak, and it will include a guided discussion of short essays as well as time to reflect on the exhibit. It is free and open to the public.

Southworth opened the exhibition earlier this month at an event that featured a talk given by Dr. Karen Pastorello, professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at Tompkins Cortland Community College and co-author of the book “Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State,” that gave an overview of rural women and the suffrage movement. The exhibit will be on display at Southworth through April, and then will move on to another library in the county, according to Library Director Diane Pamel.
“It will be at all libraries for about a month,” she said. “In November, it then may go up to Mann Library at Cornell.”

Historians and librarians from the towns of Dryden, Groton, Lansing, Newfield and Trumansburg gathered the stories they felt typified the women of their area to be featured in the exhibit.
“The stories of women at that time were a bit elusive,” said Pamel, project director and the person responsible for identifying relevant information from the Town of Dryden, in a prepared statement. “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,” she added. “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.
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Southworth Library is located at 24 W. Main Street in Dryden; for more information about its services, events and programs, visit www.southworthlibrary.org.