A Woman’s Right

The 67th historical marker in Jamestown was unveiled near the Lucille Ball Little Theatre along East Second Street on Friday.

The Jamestown Historical Marker Committee, chaired by B. Dolores Thompson, city historian, led the unveiling ceremony that honors the Chautauqua County Political Equality Club. The club promoted a woman’s right to vote during the suffrage movement. This is the 125th anniversary of the group’s creation.

“The late 1800s marked a surge in the efforts to secure the right to vote for women. Since the inception of the United States and its Constitution, women were considered citizens and were required to pay taxes. However, they had no vote in the government to which they paid those taxes and no voice in any of the laws enacted which they were expected to honor,” Thompson said.

Efforts to secure the right to vote started in June 1848 at the celebrated Seneca Falls Convention. By the 1880s, efforts were in full swing throughout the country. Small groups sprang up in many small local communities, including in Chautauqua County.

On Oct. 31, 1888, the Jamestown group hosted a meeting of all the various local groups at Allen’s Opera House, which is now the Little Theatre. They decided to organize as a county organization, the first one in New York state.

With more than 1,000 members, it was the largest county suffrage organization in the United States by 1891.

“Right here in this little place,” Thompson said.

Women were finally, formally granted the right to vote on Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Congress had passed the amendment in June 1919, but the required state ratifications were not reached until the following August. In November, women voted for the first time in the country’s 144-year history for the president of the United States.

Thompson said the idea for the historical marker came from Traci Langworthy. Also, Clair Carlson, Karen Livsey and Arthur Osterdahl helped in creating the historic marker.