tarting next month and throughout the spring and summer, downtown Johnstown will be adorned with the colors purple, gold and white — the colors of the original women’s suffrage movement.
At 9:30 a.m. March 13 in the downtown park, the first of 34 banners to hang from the city’s downtown lampposts will be unfurled in honor of the 30th anniversary of women’s history month and in anticipation of the 90th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote on Aug. 26, 1920.
The banners are the brainchild of Debra Kolsrud, the chairwoman of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association. She said her organization raised the money for the banners, which each cost $75.
“I also have one for me at my home and one for the First Presbyterian Church in Johnstown, which was Elizabeth’s church,” Kolsrud said.
The purple banners will feature a large gold check mark and in white letters will say “Women’s Equality: Celebrating Johnstown’s Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Right to Vote.” In May they will be joined by baskets of purple and yellow flowers.
Kolsrud said the colors are the same as the colors of the original woman’s suffrage flag in the 19th century. The purple signifies justice, the gold stands for courage and the white is for purity of purpose. The colors are also the same as Johnstown’s high school sports teams.
Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland, the city’s first female mayor, said her administration supports the banners. She said she’s working to establish a sister-city relationship with the village of Seneca Falls in Seneca County in time for the March 13 event. It was at Seneca Falls that Stanton organized the first women’s rights convention.
“Both [Johnstown and Seneca Falls] are named in legislation signed by President Obama last year as places on the national trail of women’s history. So, it’s a natural connection for the two of us,” Slingerland said.
Kolsrud, who teaches English at Fulton Montgomery Community College, moved to Johnstown in 2008 from California after purchasing a house at 9 S. William St., the location where Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1884 completed the third volume of their “History of Woman Suffrage.” She said she’s hoping the banners will help raise public awareness of Johnstown’s connection to the women’s suffrage movement.
“This would be a reason to bring more tourism into Fulton County by showing we do want to celebrate the fact that Elizabeth was born here,” she said. “Equality doesn’t mean more than or less than, so it should be something everyone can celebrate.”