Celebrating Women’s History and Suffrage: Women’s History Month in Northeastern Pennsylvania

In April of 1916, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke left New York and set off on a journey3b10974r throughout the United States to advocate for the women’s right to vote. Equipped with their automobile, which donned the name “The Golden Flyer,” and their kitten Saxon, the two women traveled over 10,000 miles with stops in New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and many small towns along the way. This was quite a remarkable achievement, especially considering that most women during this time period did not operate vehicles. Furthermore, most roads at this time consisted of mostly dirt or gravel, making driving both difficult and dangerous. Nevertheless, the two women continued their journey, stopping regularly to give speeches from their car, and recruiting supporters of women’s voting rights along the way. In 1920, due to efforts from the National Women’s Suffrage Association and the National Women’s Party, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified. This is considered the most significant achievement of women in the Progressive Era.

During this time, women in Northeastern Pennsylvania were also making progressive strides in the region. It was around this time that the well-known Hahnemann Hospital was founded in 1897 by a group of 15 women from the area. One of these women was Margaretta Belin, who went on to be pivotal to the creation of the Waverly Community House, as well as various other community related achievements. Other influential Northeastern Pennsylvania women during this historic time period included: Harriet Gertrude Watres, the first historian of Lackawanna County, Cornelia Pinchot, political activist/ suffragist, Elizabeth Cannon Archibald, President of Scranton’s first Women’s Club/ suffragist, Frances Jermyn Belin, Founder/ Funder of the Waverly Community House Nurse position, Abigail Geisinger, Founder of the Geisinger Hospital in Danville, Kate Chapman, suffragist, and Louise Tanner Brown, civil rights activist, among many others.

2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and will feature many events throughout the region to fittingly commemorate this significant occasion. Beginning in March, the Waverly Community House will host two events honoring women’s suffrage and history. The first, will take place on Sunday, March 8th at 1:00pm at the Comm. It is a book signing featuring author, educator, and historian, Dr. Susan L. Poulson and her book, Suffrage: The Epic Struggle for Women’s Right to Vote. This book illustrates, through the lives of suffragists themselves, the cultural and religious norms that held women in second-class status for centuries. At this event, Dr. Poulson will be discussing the right to vote, and her book. There will also be a commemorative exhibit at the Comm featuring Margaretta Belin. The second event will be the Waverly Community House’s annual National Women’s History Month Luncheon. This will take place at the Glen Oak Country Club on March 20th, 2020 at 12 noon. The theme of the Luncheon will be “Valiant Women of the Vote,” and will feature painter Laurie Newman Tuchel, a Waverly native who has chronicled disparate communities “Through the Prism of Art.” More information on both of these events can be found on the Comm’s website at: www.waverlycomm.org. Both Dr. Paulson’s program, and the NWHM Luncheon both fittingly take place during the Comm’s Centennial Year.

The 19th Amendment’s 100th Anniversary will also be commemorated in Lackawanna County with “Women’s Whistle Stop Scranton.” This event, chaired by Susan Belin will take place at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton and will feature family fun and educational activities for all ages. The activity is part of the SHE Leads Road Rally that travels from Philadelphia, PA, to Seneca Falls, NY, the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention. Scranton’s event will take place on June 20th at 11:00 am.  For more information, please click the following link: https://safdn.org/womenswhistlestop/.

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. Every truth we see is ours to give the world, not to keep for ourselves alone, for in so doing we cheat humanity out of their rights and check our own development.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton