Plans are under way in Wilton to honor women’s right to vote
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which guaranteed women the right to vote on Aug. 18, 1920.
To commemorate this historic moment in U.S. history, events are being held across the country throughout the year.
Various groups and organizations in Wilton are also planning events and activities to celebrate women’s suffrage.
A number of ideas were proposed at a recent meeting of Wilton community leaders headed by Sarah Gioffre, coordinator of community affairs in the office of First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
Tina Gardner and Virgina Gunther of the Wilton League of Women Voters said its group is organizing two events.
On Feb. 29 at 4 p.m., the League and Wilton Historical Society will host a lecture by Dr. Kelly Marino, titled “The Movement was a Great Mosaic,” about Connecticut women and stories from the suffrage campaign.
Following the lecture, there will be a reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters.
On March 5 at 4:30 p.m., the League is hosting a screening of the documentary, “The Hello Girls,” about women who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in World War I in 1918. The film will be followed by a panel discussion at Wilton Library.
There are also plans to design a special suffrage anniversary button that marchers could wear in the Memorial Day parade on May 25 and at other events.
From June 20 through Sept. 20, there will be an exhibition at the Wilton Historical Society called “Citizens at Last…” The exhibition will highlight the lives of Wilton ancestors Grace Schenck and Hannah Raymond-Ambler.
Grace Schenck arrived in Wilton in 1911 and was known as a woman “who made things happen,” according to “Wilton Connecticut,” a book of the town’s history by historian Bob Russell.
She organized the Wilton branch of the Equal Franchise League, the Civic League, and a chapter of the Red Cross. During World War I, she was a leader in the Woman’s Land Army, a group that recruited young women to work on farms to replace the farm labor lost by men at war.
After women gained the right to vote in 1920, she was elected justice of the peace, was the health officer at Wilton schools and organized the Public Health Nursing Association. She died at the age of 55 in 1932.
Hannah Raymond-Ambler’s family, the Raymonds, were the original owners of what is now known as Ambler Farm. Hannah Raymond married Charles A. Ambler, a “gentleman” farmer.
She wrote about the times leading up to women getting the right to vote. She lived until in 1925 and voted in the 1920 presidential election. Wilton Library’s History Room has her diary entry for that day: “Today is Presidential Election. Republican Harding and Coolidge, Democrat nominated Cox and Rosevelt [sic]. We all went over to vote Lewis, Charles, Anna and I. It is my first vote. Little Elizabeth, Irving, and our maid went with us.”
A number of other plans are under consideration.
Rabbi Rachel Bearman of Temple B’Nai Chaim is pondering a number of ideas, including a lecture about 10 suffragettes who were arrested on Aug. 28, 1917, as they picketed the White House, demanding the right to vote.
Bearman said the demonstrators originally planned to stage the protest in the style of the Battle of Jericho, even using shofar horns. They then thought the better of it, she said, and held a more civil demonstration. She would like to further explore Jewish women’s voices that were grappling with what suffrage could mean for them and their tradition.
Wilton Girl Scouts are planning a timeline mural in time to be hung before the August anniversary. They are also planning on holding an art show where girls can create items to be displayed.
Other ideas include a logo design contest, a short story/essay contest at Wilton High School, and programs at the schools and town events such as the Street Fair.
Additional ideas and input about suffrage celebration events are welcome. For more information, email Sarah Gioffre at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-563-0129, ext. 1128.