JOHNSTOWN - On Aug. 26, Coline Jenkins, the great-great granddaughter of Johnstown native Elizabeth Cady Stanton, delivered the luncheon keynote speech for the 91st anniversary celebration of Women's Equality Day, hosted by the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association at the Holiday Inn.
She spoke in earnest about the 72-year struggle from 1848's first women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and convened by Mrs. Stanton with other early suffragists, and Congress according women voting rights in 1920 as a "bloodless revolution."
The stamina and courage of these revolutionary women changed this nation forever without firearms. Jenkins, president and co-founder of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust, used a slideshow of political and suffrage items from her family and from the trust collection to illustrate some suffrage weapons, including protest marches.
Coline Jenkins, the great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, is shown at right with Johnstown resident Sue McLane, a living history presenter known as 'The Victorian Lady.' (Photo by Debra Kolsrud)
The most poignant moment of the luncheon began with a slide of the March 3, 1913, suffragist procession down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Next, she asked, "Is The Victorian Lady here?" Stunned, Johnstown resident Sue McLane, a living history presenter known as The Victorian Lady for over 20 years, rose from her seat and headed to the podium.
Jenkins pointed to the slide and the outfit worn by the women in the procession that included a special handmade cape and a hat bearing the words "Votes for Women." Amazingly, she then pulled from a basket an original cape and hat worn during that very parade in 1913 that is part of her family's collection.
Gingerly, Jenkins helped McLane don the outfit and then asked her to walk throughout the room so that all could get a close-up view. The solemnity of that moment was met with tears and awe at this opportunity to witness history unfolding.
Earlier in the day, a special "Reflections Collection" was unveiled in Johnstown's Bank of America building, which sits on the actual site of the Cady family home at the corner of Main and Market streets.
The exhibit, open to the public during bank hours, includes Cady and Stanton family photos, suffrage images and items on loan from Ms. Jenkins' collection.
ECSHA Chairwoman Nancy Brown coordinated the development of the display with bank officials that provides an excellent local history lesson for visitors of all ages.
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Debra Kolsrud lives in Johnstown and is a member of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.