A special month in more ways than one
Reporter in Residence
As my regular readers already know, I just love to scamper throughout my home, the Stroud Mansion, as often as possible and especially in the dark. That’s when I can make as much noise as I want, eat what’s left on the kitchen counter, and find out all types of interesting facts and opinions by researching them using a computer, reading books, browsing newspapers, and searching through town and county records for as long as I want —until the morning sun begins to rise.
Well, it just so happens that March was Women’s History Month, and lately I have overheard a lot of human talk about women, suffrage, amendments to the Constitution, and equal rights. I quickly found out that this year is the 100th anniversary celebration of the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920.
It granted women the right to vote! Before that, only men could vote — on laws, electing a president, and electing politicians such as congressmen (get it? congressmen) who made important decisions for the good of the country. They determined the fate of the American people, our big beautiful land, and, hopefully, the animals who live in it.
Here was something new for me to research! Achieving this milestone required a long and difficult struggle, including women parading wearing sashes, carrying big signs, and sometimes getting arrested by the police! Now that’s not fair! Why did it take so long? I had to find out more about this.
My rule in doing research is to start with uncovering the “big picture.” How long was the fight for the right to vote? Where did it happen and when did it start? Who was involved?
I found a website with a “Woman Suffrage Timeline” (“suffrage” actually means the right to vote). This helped a lot. Women throughout the country started organizing around 1840, arranging conventions on women’s rights and creating an agenda of women’s activism which continues to the present day. Names that I had heard before, like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth (a former slave), and Alice Paul, to name a few, were repeatedly banned from men’s meetings. Nationally, a group called the National Women’s Party, founded by Alice Paul, focused on more radical, militant tactics — hunger strikes and White House pickets, aimed at winning dramatic publicity for their cause.
My mouse family has been living in the Mansion since the 1790s, so I was especially interested in finding out what Monroe County women did before they had a voice through voting. Did this type of activism and protest happen in Monroe County?
Dark nights give me opportunities to climb into the file cabinets and file folders, looking for local news. In 1915, Althea Staples formed the Women’s Suffrage Society of Monroe County. Under her leadership, the local suffragettes became active in the community and established committees to report on social issues of the day. Althea organized gatherings in Courthouse Square to report on any and all legislative bills that might impact the cause. She arranged for the suffrage movie “Your Girl and Mine” to be screened in town. When yellow became the color of the suffrage movement, Althea encouraged local businesses to decorate their store fronts with yellow ribbons. Althea enlisted many loyal workers to promote suffrage gardens containing yellow flowers.
According to the 1915 Monroe Democrat, the Monroe County suffragettes were selling seed packs containing the seeds of six flowers that would be a continuous bloom of yellow. Althea and her fellow suffragettes had energy!
Through the dedication of the local women’s service clubs, as well as their political organizations, committees were formed to engage the community to help Monroe County residents meet their needs and to beautify the surrounding area. The Stroudsburg Women’s Club, of which Althea Staples was a charter member, planted trees throughout the borough of Stroudsburg, organized regular trash removal, encouraged the school board to create a “homemaking department” in the high school, and supported the anti-tuberculosis campaign. The group established a well-baby clinic, and created the public library. Althea personally raised funds to save the Stroud Mansion from being torn down and was instrumental in having the building serve as a community house. I’m so thankful for their efforts and that I have a roof over my head!
Now the piles of red, white and blue political buttons, the campaign signs stacked on the work table, and the yards of purple suffrage ribbon in our curator Bret’s office make sense. He is working on an exhibit highlighting the history of Monroe County women in politics and how far women have come over the past 100 years. I saw in his notes that the exhibition is titled, “From Suffrage to Service, Monroe County Women in Politics.”
I am proud of the accomplishments women have made over the last several decades. I come from a long line of strong female mice. I know women still have far to go when it comes to equality, but they’ve got what it takes to get there.