Yesterday I was excited to participate in the dedication of a new historical marker on Main Street in East Hampton. It's been erected in honor of May Groot Manson, who was a leader in the suffrage movement, and since this year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, it has been placed in front of what was her home at 117 Main Street.
The discussion around the new marker centered on a number of things, but mostly on her and what she meant to the movement. She actually organized a march down Main Street that will be recreated in August, and I'm excited about the opportunity to participate.
One of the areas of conversation centered around the fact that it was the society ladies that really got the movement off the ground. May was a part-time resident here, her other home being in New York City of course. It was her encouragement that prompted many other well-heeled ladies to join the movement, bringing prestige and notice to the fight, just as people with well-known names today can bring attention to their own causes. Thus it has always been!
Someone questioned why it was that society women were the ones who brought the nations leaders to the table and who brought the notice necessary for the movement to be successful. It wasn't difficult for me to imagine. I thought about my great-grandmother who was no doubt down here on Accabonac Road washing clothes, cleaning the house, taking care of children, cooking food, mending socks, etc, etc. Did she have time for things like marches and rallies and protests? I don't think so. But the ladies of leisure, who had other people to do those tasks for them, certainly did have the time for them. And they were smart, talented women who needed a way to channel their energy. Surely they had more of it than did the local ladies of East Hampton who no doubt went to bed exhausted every night.
Someone (a man) once made the comment to me that because of the way women were oppressed for so long and not allowed to be entrepreneurs or CEOs, there was "hundreds of years of wasted brain-power" and he wondered if we wouldn't have cured cancer by now had things been different. Interesting question. And interesting to study history and see just how women were able to make a difference in the world despite their limited freedoms. Inspirational ladies for sure.