On August 26, 1920, the ratification the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting all women the right to vote and marking the end of a long and hard-fought battle spanning generations. For those who fought to ensure equal voting rights for all, the fight included conventions, collaborations, speeches, protests, essays, arrests, and, in at least one instance, imprisonment and torture.
This month, the Garrett Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will be presenting some of the Marylanders that helped get the amendment passed. Held during Women’s History Month, “Women’s Monologues 2020: Maryland Suffragists” will focus on nine women and one man who helped shape Maryland women’s history.
The Monologues will be presented at Our Town Theatre in Oakland at 7 PM on Thursday, March 27 and 2 PM on Sunday, March 29. This will be the second year for the monologues to be held at the theater, although they have a long history in Garrett County.
In the 1990’s, the national organization of AAUW shared a women’s history monologues project presented in school by the Thousand Oaks, CA, Branch of AAUW. The branch even published a book called “Profiles of Women Past & Present (1996)” that included monologues they had created, researched and written. Members of the Garrett Branch got wind of this project and performed some monologues at Garrett College to help students and faculty connect with the inspiring stories of memorable, history-shaping women.
Psychology professor Dr. Terry Kasecamp soon took up the mantle of the Monologues and, with the help of her students and other women in the community, presented the Monologues at Garrett College fairly regularly in March to celebrate National Women’s History Month and to keep women’s stories alive for younger generations.
The Women’s Monologues made their debut at Our Town Theatre in 2019 when thirteen women presented notable women throughout history from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
Since 2020 is the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has proclaimed it as the “Year of the Woman”, it seemed only fitting that this topic should be the feature of the 2020 Monologues. Coordinator Judy Carbone, President of AAUW-Garrett Branch, has been working with a group of AAUW members and supporters to identify and learn about Maryland suffragists, including several that hailed from or affected life in Garrett County.
Although many of the women featured may not be household names to most of us, their contributions were immeasurable.
The evening will focus on a broad timeline including Maryland’s first known suffragist, Margaret Brent, born in 1601 (1601-1671). She was an English immigrant to the Colony of Maryland and as a property owner in 1648 demanded the right to vote in Maryland colonial assembly. She was denied and moved to Virginia in protest. Portrayed in the monologues by Kam Gillespie and Lisa Nichols, Margaret Brent was the first woman in the English North American colonies to appear before a court of the common law acting as her own attorney.
Suffrage was not only a woman’s battle. Many men took up the cause as well, perhaps none more famous than Marylander Frederick Douglass (1818-1895). He was one of 30 men present at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY, in July 1848. Douglass is credited with advancing suffrage with his publishing and public oration skills. In 1866, he, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, founded the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that demanded suffrage for all. Due to growing tension between women’s rights activists and African American rights activists, the organization was short lived, but Douglass remained influential in both movements until his death. Douglass will be portrayed by Jonathan Anderson.
The first known Garrett County suffragist was Catharine Sweet, who was born circa 1850. As a young widow in Ohio, Sweet was denied rights to her property and child’s guardianship, making her a life-long suffragist. Sweet then re-married and moved to Loch Lynn, MD, where she attempted to vote in the newly incorporated town’s first municipal elections. Although the Loch Lynn Heights town charter decreed that all “persons” had the right to vote, Sweet was denied. Her angry, first-hand story was published in the Baltimore Sun in May 1896. Sweet will be portrayed by Liz Williams.
Edith Houghton Hooker (1879-1948) was an avid advocate for progressive reform and became convinced that social progress could be made quickly and completely if women achieved the right to vote. Portrayed by Linda Herdering, Hooker was the first woman accepted into Johns Hopkins University Medical School. She was the founder of the Just Government League, the largest Suffragist organization in Maryland and the group that organized several pilgrimage marches throughout the state to enlist women’s suffrage supporters, including the Garrett Suffrage Pilgrimage or Hike. Hooker was creator and editor of “The Maryland Suffrage News” and was also the maternal aunt of actress Katherine Hepburn.
Edna S. Latimer (1878-1917), was the Garrett Suffrage Hike “General”. In June 1914, Latimer and 6 other women took the train from Baltimore to Cumberland, then marched to Frostburg and from there to Grantsville, Friendsville, Sang Run (including giving a speech at the Election House there), Oakland, Crellin, Mountain Lake Park, Kitzmiller and other local stops before arriving back in Cumberland two weeks after they started their hike. At each stop, they stayed in the homes of local hosts, passed out literature, gave speeches, and signed up people in support of suffrage and as new members of the JGL. In all, the women covered 125 miles on foot, gave 21 speeches, and signed up 820 new members, the highest number of any of the hikes in Maryland.
Lattimer was also an organizer for the National Women’s Party, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, and the Just Government League. She will be portrayed by Judy Carbone.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), was born in Baltimore and well-known author, poet, speaker, abolitionist and women’s right advocate. Harper was one of the first African American women to be published in the United States and was a dynamic orator. She lectured and organized Black women into Temperance Unions and was a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Women – along with fellow suffragists Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and others — and became its vice president. Kate Smith, Councilwoman of Oakland, will portray Harper.
A local figure portrayed in the production is Dr. Lorilla F. Bullard Tower (1870-1963), who practiced medicine for 10 years in WV before marrying and moving to Garrett County. Although she stopped practicing medicine after her marriage, she was the only female Physician in Garrett County listed in the Maryland Listing of Physicians for many years. Local stories abound of her work to empower women for social reform and suffrage. She held many executive positions in community organizations and was president of the Oakland Women’s Civic Club in 1914 at the time of the Garrett County Suffrage Hike. Dr. Tower will be portrayed by Betty Pritt.
Of course, one of the most well-known names in Garrett County history is its namesake, John W. Garrett of Baltimore. His only daughter, Mary Elizabeth Garrett (1854-1915), was a staunch suffragist and generous philanthropist. Well-known for her “coercive philanthropy”, Mary Elizabeth donated money to start the Johns Hopkins University Medical School in 1893 on the condition that the school would accept female students “on the same terms as men”. She founded the Bryn Mawr School, a private college-preparatory school for girls in Baltimore, and generously donated to Bryn Mawr College of Pennsylvania with the requirement that her close friend, Martha Carey Thomas, be the president. Mary Elizabeth collaborated with longtime friends, Susan B. Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw, to try to secure the right for women to vote in the United States.
While Mary Elizabeth Garrett was a staunch suffragist, her sister-in-law, Mary Frick Garrett (1851-1936) was staunchly against it (known as an “Anti-Suffragist”). There were three reasons Anti’s typically had for being against suffrage: they believed women voting would harm the family-centered culture, women should be subservient to men according to religious values, and that it would give parity to black women (the 15th Amendment only gave black men the right to vote). While Mary Frick was also well-known and a generous philanthropist in her own right, she vehemently opposed and worked against her sister-in-law’s efforts on behalf of women’s equity. Imagine the conversations of these two women and sisters-in-law, both so steadfast in their beliefs. Sue Lisanti (portraying Mary Elizabeth) and Lori Youse (as Mary Frick) will share an imagined interaction between the two formidable women.
One of the most horrific events of the suffrage movement (and one that eventually turned the tide of popular opinion in favor of the women’s right to vote) was “The Night of Terror”. Julia Emory of Baltimore (1885-1979) was a victim of that fateful night along with 32 other suffragists including co-captor Lucy Burns. In 1917, Julia, Lucy and other suffragists were picketing the White House daily. Known as “Silent Sentinels”, the women did not speak and often endured public humiliation from passersby while local police did nothing. After a time, the women were arrested only to return to picket again after release. Longer and longer penalties were given, until in November 1917, Emory and the others were arrested and taken unconventionally to be housed in the Occaquan Workhouse, known for “worm infested food, filthy water and bedding”. On the night of November 14, 1917, the women, whose claim to being political prisoners had been denied and thus they were subjected to harsher conditions, were clubbed, beaten, chained, and tortured, and after a hunger strike was called, many were viciously force fed with a hose through their nostrils into which a mixture of milk and raw eggs was forced into their bodies.
In early 1918, a D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the women had been illegally arrested and mistreated. The episode helped galvanize support of the suffrage movement which resulted in President Woodrow Wilson finally giving his support to the 19th amendment. Kim Alexander will portray Julia Emory.
On each end of the production will be women who will give historical context to the fight for, passage of, and the aftermath of the 19th Amendment to this day. Opening the show will be Rose Gordy, who will address the audience with information scripted by Elaine Weiss in her seminal book on the topic, “The Woman’s Hour” (2018), setting up the roles of each of the production’s historical figures in the suffrage movement.
Closing the show will be Lillia Rose, senior at Southern High School, who will talk about the suffrage battle that continued in Maryland after the amendment’s passage as well as the struggle for women’s equity that continues today. In essence, Rose and Lillia will embody and flesh out a motto used in the State of Maryland WED2020 coalition about suffrage: “Hard Won…Not Done”.
“Because I learned about this long history of the suffrage movement and what these courageous women endured, I will never not vote in an election,” says Carbone. “AAUW advocates for women’s equity, gender parity and representation at all levels. None of these is possible if we, especially we as women, don’t vote.”
Tickets for the performance are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Reservations can be made online www.ourtowntheatre.org or, if there are still tickets available, at the door.
The program is sponsored by the AAUW Garrett Branch, one of Garrett County’s longest running women’s groups and funded in part by the Maryland State Arts Council. This event is one of several area events being held in the “Year of the Woman”. Organizations such as the Maryland Park Service, GLAF, the town of Mountain Lake Park and more will be holding events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. AAUW-Garrett Branch will be holding at least two others.
For more information on these activities and in AAUW-Garrett Branch, please go to the organizations Facebook Page (@aauwgcbranch), their website (garrettcounty-md.aauw.net) or by emailing Judy Carbone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Banner photo courtesy of Maryland Suffrage News (Baltimore, MD) June 13, 1914 Pilgrim’s Edition. Additional photo courtesy of Denise Shay.)