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Remembering the Critical Role of Locals in the Women’s Suffrage Movement on Women’s Equality Day

Greenwich Village Congressmember Bella Abzug (D-NY) urged congress in 1973 to designate August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which ended sex-based discrimination in voting in the United States.

Feeling inspired to find out more about the fight for suffrage and equality in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo? Village Preservation has the resources for you to begin your historic journey. We’ll get you started by highlighting just a few stops on our Women’s Suffrage History Map and Civil Rights and Social Justice Maps. If this virtual historical walk gets you excited to exercise your right to vote and get active in civic affairs, Village Preservation is here for you in the present with non-partisan resources on elections and local advocacy.

Intersectional Fight

L: Mabel Ping-Hua Lee l R: A scene from the May 4, 1912 Women’s Suffrage Parade

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (b. October 7, 2897) was a suffragist who helped lead the May 4, 1912 women’s suffurage parade that saw 10,000 marchers walk down Fifth Avenue. She was 16 years old and part of a coalition of Chinese Immigrant women who rode on horseback along the route from Washington Square Park to 27th Street. A graduate of Barnard, and the first Chinese immigrant woman to recieve a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University, she was an researcher, author, and director of the First Chinese Baptist Church of New York City.

It is important to remember amongst the celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, that the amendment did not secure the right to vote for all American women. Chinese immigrant women could not vote until 1943, and it remains undetermined whether Lee ever got to vote in the US as a U.S. citizen. This was the fate of many suffragists of color who were denied their rights even after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Max Eastman (b. January 4, 1883 – March 25, 1969), whose residence is marked on the map at 6 East 8th Street, was the founder of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage and editor of The Masses and The Liberator, radical magazines that blended art and politics. Eastman lived in Greenwich Village for much of his life. From about 1909 to 1910, he lived at 118 Waverly Place. By 1917, Eastman had moved to 6 East 8th Street, and by 1920 he had moved to 11 St. Luke’s Place. The Men’s League for Woman Suffurage was just one of the male-led organizations supporting the fight for suffrage.

The Labor Movement served as a way to build allyship across causes and had a significant impact on the Woman’s Suffrage Movement. This impact is reflected by multiple locations of significance in our neighborhoods that connect both Labor and Suffrage activism.

Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) formally endorsed women’s suffrage at its convention at Beethoven Hall, 210-214 East 5th Street on July 14, 1907. The WTUL (1903-1950) brought together both working class and wealthy women in an effort to improve working conditions and support the formation of labor unions. Interestingly, there was not alignment across the entire labor movement. When Rose Schneiderman in support of the resolution in support of women’s suffrage, she admonished many of her fellow male unionists who failed to attend and support the convetion. Check out the map for a look at WTUL’s resolution of support for women’s suffrage along with additional details about Schneiderman’s speech.

L: Clara Lemlick l C: 278 East 3rd Street ca. 1940 l R: 278 East 3rd Street as it appears today

Clara Lemlich, who lived at 278 East 3rd Street, was a leader of the New York garment industry strike of 1909 known as the Uprising of 20,000, when she was just 23 years old. She was blacklisted for her labor union work, but that did not stop her activism. She founded the Wage Earner’s Suffrage League, an organization that provided working-class people an alternative to middle-class organizations working for suffrage.

Supporting Voting Rights with Civic Infrastructure

Esther Lape and Elizabeth Read who lived as life-partners at 20 East 11th street for more than 20 years were influenctial women’s suffragists. They founded the League of Women Voters, an important, non-partisan organization that continues to be a trusted source of information on elections, registering to vote, and supporting voters across the gender spectrum and party affiliations. They were both close with Elenor Roosevelt and served as advisors to her. Roosevelt also rented an apartment at 20 East 11th st from 1933-1942.

Hopefully this look at just a few of the sites on these maps gets you interested in spending a portion of your day celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment as well as get involved in civic affairs, with Village Preservation and beyond.

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