Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Celebration!

While not quite as dramatic (OK, it was nowhere near as big or as formal) as the ceremony greeting the envoys’ arrival in DC, we had a lovely celebration on November 17th at the Cannon House Office Building, Room 121 to conclude my trip. Many thanks to Representative Chellie Pingree and her staff for helping us secure the space.
Cynthia, me, Sara Eliza, and Laura (left to right.)
Love those smiles!

The room was decorated in the CU’s purple, white and gold colors. Purple symbolized loyalty, constancy to purpose, and unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White signified the purity of their purpose, and gold was the torch that guided their purpose.[1] The descendants had pulled out all the stops; mounting some of the old photos on poster board for display, creating a program, and taking care of many other details I couldn’t possibly have thought of, even if I hadn’t been traveling. The Sewall-Belmont House brought copies of the Suffragist and some other artifacts that helped connect the spirit of the women from 100 years ago to the celebration that evening.

I did manage to put together a movie that combined photos from the original trip and mine- you can download that here (when it opens go to the "View" tab and click on "Preview Full Screen".) The movie looped on the screen on the wall above the podium.

Maine 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree
who helped secure the room for us at the
Cannon House Office Building
As planned, Cynthia Matthews served as MC, thanking everyone for coming, and introducing the other three descendants. In her remarks she linked her interest in the event not just to her step-great grandmother, Sara Bard Field, but to her work for Planned Parenthood. She then introduced Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (Maine), and Congressman Sam Farr and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, both from California. We were honored that all three took turns at the podium to make some remarks, again linking the original trip and the sacrifices women made to earn rights we enjoy today, some of which we’re at some risk of losing. 

Anna Eshoo shared two stories from her experience in the US House. The first occurred after she was first elected, when she complained to a male colleague about a heavy revolving door in the House office building that was dangerous for women wearing heels. “Well, you got here,” was his response, suggesting that she didn’t have a right to complain about little things like safety. Grrr….

California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

Her other story was about the son of her hairdresser, who came to DC to serve as a page on the floor of the House. After he returned from the trip he sat down to write a thank-you note, and didn’t know what to say. His mother encouraged him to say what he really felt about it, so he asked his mother “Do you think I could grow up to be a Congresswoman some day?” Treasure those moments…

In my remarks, I first made sure to thank all of the people who helped in so many ways, from meeting with me to feeding us or putting us up. I then summarized the original trip for those who were unfamiliar with it and talked about what I’d learned from mine. I also recognized the people in the room who have worked to protect and strengthen women’s rights, something I will never again take for granted after this experience.

One of the things that’s so humbling about knowing this history is how hard those women worked, and what obstacles and ignorant attitudes they overcame, to get us where we are today. For me, learning this history has been really empowering. As a result of this trip I’m I feel renewed responsibility for continuing the work our foremothers began.

And knowing about these amazing women somehow lets me tap into the energy they brought to whatever causes they worked for. It’s as if I now have all these extra hands on the shovel no matter what kind of crap I’m digging into.

It’s also important to know how long women have worked to achieve particular goals so that we can finally say- Enough! We’re done asking nicely for what should have been our right in the first place. Now we demand…we demand…

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. I do plan to write a book about it but I still have a lot of research and thinking to do, so it won’t happen right away. Keep in touch!



[1] The Suffragist, Dec. 6, 1913,Vol. 1, No. 4.

4 comments:

  1. What a wonderful recap of the celebration of your completing the retracing of the cross country road trip of suffrage envoys 100 years ago. It was a big effort back in those days, and a remarkable achievement in current times. Good work Anne. Also good planning, good perseverance, good intention to highlight the ongoing need to focus attention on issues women are facing today. Glad to be part of the inspiring celebration.

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  2. Thanks Sara! It was wonderful to have you, Cynthia, Laura and Eliza with me in DC. It really made the event special for me, and I so appreciated your organizing help as well!

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