Coline Jankins, the great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, said it was a wise choice to hang the first of 34 banners commemorating the 90th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote on North Market Street, right across the street from where her famous ancestor grew up.
Jankins said it in was in that neighborhood, within sight of the current Fulton County Courthouse, that Stanton attended the proceedings of her father, state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Cady, and began to link the importance of legal rights to women.
“I think it’s an incredible legacy that this town has. The significance of Johnstown is it is where Elizabeth Cady Stanton connected women and law,” she said. “She grew up with law clerks living in her father’s house and he worked right over there in the courthouse. She grew up in this soup of law and was exposed to law everywhere she looked and thought. It was that exposure that was the basis of her thoughts about women’s rights. That led her to establish the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls and the ripple effect of that was the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, and it all started right here. This is the epicenter.”
Debra Kolsrud, the chairwoman of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association, organized Saturday’s event and the creation of the banners, which feature the colors of the original women’s suffrage movement flag: purple signifying justice, gold for courage and white for purity of purpose.
“This is the kickoff for the Johnstown celebration for the 90th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. It’s appropriate that it’s here in March, women’s history month, because this is the 30th anniversary of the national celebration of women’s history month,” she said. “This is all to really heighten the awareness of this as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement and for someone who advocated equality under the law.”
Kolsrud said she was motivated to organize the tribute in part because of the recent creation of the “Votes for Women Trail,” a national tourism route that includes Johnstown.
The trail was established by legislation signed by President Barack Obama last year that allows the National Park Service and the National Women’s Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls to establish a commemorative trail to link properties in the corridor between the eastern border of New York State and the Niagara Frontier. The trail highlights areas associated with the 72-year fight for women’s suffrage, including the periods of Stanton’s life spent in Johnstown.
Any tourists visiting Johnstown this summer will see 34 banners hung throughout the downtown area. The banners feature a large gold check mark and have white letters that read “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
Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland, the first female mayor in the city’s history, attended the ceremony to hang the first banner Saturday.
“I think this shows the significant influence that women still have on the history of the region and how they’re very committed to modern day issues, not just the past,” Slingerland said. “The next piece to this will be the women’s symposium March 20.”
This year’s Elizabeth Cady Stanton Women’s Symposium will be held at the HFM BOCES building on Route 67 March 20, from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m.
Fulton County Court Judge Polly Hoye also attended the ceremony Saturday. She said she is often reminded of the history of the region and its importance to the development of legal rights when she sits on the bench in the historic Fulton County Courthouse.
“It’s wonderful to be in that courtroom and to think of all of the history that has occurred there. It’s a real privilege,” she said.
A complete list of all of the donors who paid for the downtown banners is available at Kolsrud’s Web site www.elizabethcadystantonhometown.org.
Categories: Schenectady County