It may seem hard to believe, but women in the U.S. have been able to vote for just under 100 years.
Aug. 2020 will mark the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
The Buffalo History Museum is commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with an exhibition spotlighting the contribution of WNY suffragists to the cause.
Emblem of Equality: Woman Suffrage in Western New York is on display now at the museum, and will be on display though Sept. 2020.
The exhibit opened to the public last Friday. It features newspaper clippings, photos, posters, and other items from the fight for women’s suffrage, which endured almost a century before women gained the vote.
“It started with gatherings and speeches in halls that weren’t well-attended,” Buffalo History Museum director of exhibits Anthony Greco said. “Slowly, over time, more people started catching wind and supporting it and before long, it had the support of the government.”
The women’s suffrage movement started in 1848 with the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, only about two hours from Buffalo (by today’s transportation standards).
“When the women in the mid-19th century started to be more outspoken for it, it spread slowly and gained more traction,” Greco said. “You had more newspaper coverage, people talking about it, rallies, and eventually it gained enough momentum to gain the attention of President Woodrow Wilson.”
The stories of some WNY suffragists are included in the the exhibit.
“Some of them are more well-known, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but there are a lot of women who were lesser-known, who lived along Delaware Avenue- members of prominent families who were for suffrage,” Greco said.
A group of women from Western New York known as the “Buffalo Six” picketed the White House repeatedly in the name of suffrage in the late 1910s.
They were arrested and sent to federal prison, only to return to the picket line once getting out, Greco said.
“These women would get arrested, often losing jobs or giving up their lives to go down there and protest something they felt was very important,” Greco said.
Though some women were passionate about getting the right to vote, there were also women who opposed suffrage.
“Women and men against it labeled it as a socialist tactic, and they would call the suffragettes socialists,” Greco said. “There were a lot of women who just thought that a woman’s place was in the home.”
“It wasn’t something all women unanimously supported- it was a very complicated issue,” he added.
The Buffalo History Museum is located at 1 Museum Court in Buffalo. Click here for more information.