The times when women did not have the right to vote may seem like distant history for some, but a group of Rehoboth area women is determined to keep the suffragists and their fight for voting rights alive.
“The suffragists were the first to picket the White House, go on a hunger strike and go to jail,” said Donna Mabry, co-chairwoman of the 19th Amendment Centennial Celebration March for the Village Improvement Association – one of several groups sponsoring 19th Amendment celebrations planned for the Cape Region.
The women who fought for the right to vote learned a lot from protestors in England, she said, but the American suffragists created a blueprint for protest movements in the United States that would become the standard for decades to come.
It's a blueprint that has lasted 100 years and one to be proud of, said Martha Redmond, president of the League of Women Voters of Sussex County.
“In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we wanted to put forward an effort throughout the year,” Redmond said. “Our plan is to do one event a month.”
Events have already begun with a “Dignity and Defiance” book display at the Rehoboth Beach Public Library. The display, running through the end of October, includes books, photos and a timeline of the work the Suffragists accomplished. Once the display ends, Redmond said, she hopes that another area library will pick up the display.
A series of events, movies and other celebrations will punctuate each month in 2020 with the pièce de résistance planned for Aug. 26 at the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk and grandstand.
“The march is the biggest event planned,” said Mary Folan, chairwoman of the 19th Amendment Centennial Celebration March for the Village Improvement Association.
Folan said marchers will meet at 5 p.m. at Gerar Park behind the Henlopen Hotel where she hopes a band will lead a line of about 700 people to the Boardwalk. From the Boardwalk, she said, she expects a crowd wearing white with purple sashes will make its way to the Bandstand.
“We may be only able to have a line of three across,” Mabry said, looking ahead toward the busy summer month when the Boardwalk is already bustling with people.
Once at the Bandstand, Folan said, several women will read speeches originally given by the Suffragists. Folan said the gathering at the Bandstand should be impressive to bring home the importance of what the suffragists did for women and equality. Planners for the event agree that the march will make a big impact – the same way the original suffragists changed the world around them.
“If you want to get attention, do something like that,” Folan said.