We stand on strong shoulders as far as grassroots organizing is concerned. While Saul Aliksky has garnered a hefty share of attention, and for many is considered the "father" of community organizing, this type of local organization was old hat to women in the suffrage movement.
The Long island suffrage campaign to win support for Votes for Women started about 1912 with a "whirlwind" campaign and accelerated in July of 1913 when the "Spirit of 1776" campaign wagon was presented to the New York State Suffrage Association the first week in July in Manhattan. Suffrage organizers had their eyes on Long Island before the turn of the century, however, when Votes for Women organizations sent representatives to meetings of women's clubs and other organizations.
In 1913 Harriet May Mills, president of the New York Woman Suffrage Association wrote in a letter to suffrage organizer Edna Kearns that the WPU had been making inroads on Long Island and it was time for the state suffrage association to get busy. This video has the short version of the story, and it's a handy introduction for students, teachers, and all-around suffrage lovers. Once we realize how grassroots organizing and activism impacted our grandparents' and great grandparents' generations, we can cultivate a healthy respect for how this inspires us today.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton might have appeared in your school history book with a caption linking them to voting rights. However, tens of thousands of suffrage activists worked in conjunction with state and national leaders to pull off the most widespread nonviolent social reform in the United States. The story of Long Island is just one example of the types of campaigns occurring on the local level across the nation.
For more information, subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel and celebrate women's freedom to vote. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
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