By LOIS KINDLE
The GFWC Ruskin Woman’s Club thinks it’s a big deal that women have the right to vote, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Since this amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensured women that right, the club is taking part in a nationwide celebration.
On Aug. 15 the Ruskin Woman’s Club decorated the entrance to its historic clubhouse in purple and gold in advance of a national effort coming up Aug. 26, called the Forward into Light campaign, the 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative that commemorates the amendment’s 100-year anniversary.
“We’re doing this in conjunction with Forward into Light,” said longtime Ruskin Woman’s Club member Sandy Council. “Buildings and landmarks all around the country will light up in those colors, which symbolize the Women’s Suffrage Movement.”
The Forward into Light Campaign was named in honor of a famous women’s suffrage slogan: “Forward out of darkness, leave behind the night; forward out of error, forward into light.”
Several months ago, Council was watching The Florida Channel and saw that Gov. Ron DeSantis had appointed a commission to celebrate the centennial. She became interested and decided to talk with local historian Mac Miller, who knew about Ruskin residents Kate Richards O’Hare, Adaline Dickman Miller, Harriet Orcutt, Minerva Cushman and others. All had been active in one way or another in the women’s suffrage movement from 1914 to 1920, when middle-class and wealthy women marched, went on hunger strikes, were force fed and attacked by mobs that opposed them. Many were arrested.
O’Hare, who was a national speaker during the women’s suffrage movement, participated in many marches throughout the country and debated anti-suffrage speakers.
When Council asked the Ruskin Women’s Club board to form an ad hoc committee on the centennial, she was requested to chair it. Taking things a step further, she “called around” to see if the Sunshine Skyway Bridge could be lit in purple and gold. She said she was told that “Due to the COVID-19 proclamation of national emergency, the only colors that can be displayed on a Federal highway are red, white and blue.”
“Ruskin was highly progressive during that time,” Miller’s wife, Melanie Hubbard, PhD, a local author and researcher, explained. “Women could own property, and if they did, they could vote and hold public office in the community, which was then known as the Ruskin Commongood Society.
“It would be unthinkable now to be growing up female without having the right to vote and the recognition of one’s basic human dignity.”
Council, 76, agreed.
“I’ve always taken my right to vote seriously, ever since I [first] registered,” she said. “I feel so many young women today don’t know what their foremothers went through on their behalf. If they did, they would honor them and the privilege they’ve been given as a result of the brave actions of the suffragettes.”
In 1848, 300 women and men, including organizers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met at a convention in Seneca Falls, N. Y. Sixty-eight women and 32 men, including Frederick Douglass, signed a document called the Declaration of Sentiments, which sparked decades of activism on the question of a women’s right to vote.
After the Civil War, there were factions of activists and abolitionists who could not agree on the issue of female suffrage. On May 15, 1869, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, which later merged with the American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
It wasn’t until 1890 that the first state (Wyoming) gave women the right to vote in all elections.
On Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, nicknamed “The Susan B. Anthony Amendment,” was ratified, securing the right for all women, ages 21 and above, to vote.