So much for those lazy, hazy days of summer we used to know! If your local League is like mine, you are having a surge of interest in the critical work we do that you haven’t seen for years, maybe ever. Voter registration, candidate events, forums on immigration and other hot topics, and more are keeping us scrambling to keep up. Suddenly the new LWVUS mission statement – Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy – seems to have been written just for today.
I was at Seneca Falls this past weekend for the annual celebration of the event that happened SEVENTEEN decades ago and kicked off the women’s suffrage movement. The reading of the Declaration of Sentiments that dared to say that “all men AND WOMEN were created equal” was almost dismissed by the crowd had not Frederick Douglass – a newly-free 30-year-old black man with a best-selling autobiography to his name – stood up in support of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s bold statement. It also would not have happened if Lucretia Coffin Mott, the very prominent Quaker from Nantucket and Philadelphia, were not among those who helped Stanton write and present it.
To see and hear ‘Elizabeth” (Melinda Grube), “Frederick” (Nathan Richardson) and “Lucretia” (Renee Noelle Felice) converse in such detail about that day and the complicated years to follow, in the exact spot where the Declaration was read, made me think how badly we need such people of courage and persistence now. How different they were – a woman who was remarkably privileged except for her gender, a man who was only recently a slave, and a woman who’d spent her early years primarily among Quakers and Native Americans. People of such different life paths and strong wills were bound to have their conflicts. But they were totally united in their commitment to human rights and to the hard work that achieving these would entail. Through the long struggle there was considerable pain and despair, but they pushed and pulled one another forward.
Dare Thompson, President
League of Women Voters of NYS
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