The ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution became official on Aug. 26, 1920.
It is one of the smallest amendments in words — but it represented a massive victory for women, a long time in the making — and it reads, very simply, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
To commemorate this monumental amendment — it’s pretty mind-boggling that women have only had the right to vote for a century, isn’t it — two important events will take place in West Hudson this week to mark its centennial.
The first event is quite unique.
The West Hudson Arts & Theater Co., in conjunction with the four Women’s Clubs of Arlington — including The Junior Woman’s Club of Arlington, The Woman’s Club of Arlington, the Evening Membership Department of the Woman’s Club of Arlington and The Arlington Juniorettes, will present “The Right is Ours!” an original virtual-theater experience written by local playwright and W.H.A.T. board member Allyssa Hynes, live on Facebook, Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m.
It will be streamed on W.H.A.T.’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/whatconj and on The Observer’s Facebook page at facebook.theobserver.com. The production celebrates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and will serve as W.H.A.T.’s first virtual fundraiser.
If you can’t make it to the live performance, it will be available as a recorded broadcast immediately following the conclusion of the live premiere.
Juniorettes’ adviser and W.H.A.T. board member Brandi-Leigh Miller brought the idea for the production to W.H.A.T.
“My friend Regina Conlon Vinacco, a local college history professor, Harrison resident and legacy member of the JWCA and I were having a conversation about how her grandmother may have been the first woman in her family to vote,” Miller said.
As such, the two discussed the possibility of creating a joint club service project to deliver a program of historical speeches for a Woman’s Suffrage-themed tea.
W.H.A.T. President Jerry Ficeto, meanwhile, agreed it would be the good fit for the community theater company and a great way to help raise much-needed funds.
“Since W.H.A.T. has been dark since March due to COVID-19, a virtual production was the perfect solution to bring theater back to our community and offer a fundraising vehicle for the theater, while also providing a chance for our women’s clubs to commemorate this milestone,” Ficeto said.
Hynes volunteered to weave the historical research done by Vinacco into historically relevant scenes and conversations, excerpts from famous speeches turned into monologues. In the production, the telling of the road to the ratification of the 19th Amendment is all brought through the eyes of woman of the time — an “unnamed suffragette” who marks the passage of events by plucking the petals of a yellow rose — a symbol of the Suffrage Movement.
Among those who will perform as suffragettes are Pat Sherwin, one of the club presidents; Kearny Third Ward Councilwoman Carol Jean Doyle; and The Observer’s Lisa Feorenzo.
Donations may be made by Venmo @whatconj or by sending a check to W.H.A.T., P.O. Box 241, Kearny, N.J. 07032.
Now, that very same day, landmarks and buildings across the country — including Kearny Town Hall — will light up in purple and gold on Wednesday, Aug. 26, as part of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission’s nationwide Forward Into Light Campaign, named to honor the suffrage slogan, “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light.”
Institutions in Washington, D.C., including the White House, Library of Congress, National Archives, Smithsonian Institutions and the Kennedy Center, will be joined by other prominent locations across the country such as One World Trade in New York City, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in Nevada, national park sites, municipal buildings and churches to honor the suffragists who lobbied, marched, picketed, and protested for the right to the ballot and never gave up on the fight for equality.
Kearny’s participation will kick off Aug. 26 and stretch to the end of the month, organizers said.
In this silent but visible way, the Town of Kearny will mark the 100th anniversary of the milestone.
Many suffragists did not live to see their efforts succeed but the generations who followed saw, and continue to see considerable changes in the lives of women.
In 1848, the women’s suffrage movement was officially set in motion with the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. This convention discussed the social, civil and religious rights of women and for the first time, publicly shared what became known as the Declaration of Sentiments, a set of principles that outlined inequalities for women.
It took around 72 years before the right to vote became official as women around the country lobbied, marched, picketed and protested for their right.
On Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee was the 36th of the then 48 states to pass suffrage, the number needed for ratification (75% of all states).
The 19th Amendment was officially ratified nationally by President Woodrow Wilson on Aug. 26, 1920, and American women across the country officially voted in their first presidential election later that year.
“It is in this spirit that the Kearny community celebrates, marching forward into light with a loyalty to its people and the hope of an equitable future for all citizens,” Miller said.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.