Women’s Suffrage at the Island Branch of the Ocean County Library

Feb 06, 2019
Artwork by: Carol Freas ‘A Woman’s Place’ collage by Carol Freas.

The Long Beach Island branch of the Ocean County Library was packed to capacity on Saturday to open the February art exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States. The Great John Mathis Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution sponsored the exhibit ,and Cathleen Engelsen, chairwoman of the event, thanked the 20 artists who participated plus Valerie Fenelon, who has curated the past three shows for the DAR chapter held at the Island library

Toni Smirnow, branch manager, stated that in the course of two hours, 71 people visited the exhibit. 
During the reception, Rose Frola, a scholar with the Moorestown Friends School, gave a presentation on the women’s suffrage timeline and the history of New Jersey’s best-known suffragette, Alice Paul.

Paul was born a Quaker in 1885, attended Moorestown Friends School and then Swarthmore College. Her post-graduate studies were in the New York School of Social Work. From there, Paul traveled to England to do settlement work in the growing urban tenements that were a result of the Industrial Revolution. While in London, she participated in agitating for women’s right to vote and was jailed three times for her activities.

On her return to the U.S. in 1912, she became active in the suffrage movement here and was arrested three more times and imprisoned for various lengths of time.

When the 19th Amendment was finally passed in 1920, she went on to get her law degree and in 1923 she drafted and introduced into Congress the first Equal Rights Amendment, which has yet to be passed. Paul is considered by many to be the founder of the feminist movement in the U.S.

Many of the artifacts and period fashions on loan in the exhibit are from the Moorestown Friends School collection. Many of the 71 people who attended the reception are members of the Alice Paul Foundation.

Works by local artists include a portrait of Paul, “Alice Arrested” by Linda Reddington, and portraits of other famous women activists, including “Annie Kenney, Suffragette” by Margaret Simpson, “Susan B. Anthony” by Jim Maloney, “Salvina Luna-Adawi” by Richard Boscarino and “Inez Milholland Boissevain” by John James Ryan; Boissevain rode a white horse in a 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C.

Most enjoyable was artist Carol Freas’ satirical “A Woman’s Place,” which included symbols of the suffrage movement pasted on a tin washboard. Perhaps in a tribute to that Nancy Sinatra tune “These Boots are Made for Walking,” Valerie Fenelon took a picture of high-button “Shoes” and framed it. I can’t imagine the pain of such tiny, bound feet marching on Washington.

Bernadette Callanan created a collage of hands and flowers titled “Hands That Vote,” and Paul Hartelius painted a watercolor of a scene outside the White House circa 1912, “Keeping the Heat on Washington.”

In an interesting aside to history, Susan B. Anthony was once quoted by female journalist Nellie Bly that bicycling had “done more to emancipate women that anything else in the world,” in replacing the corset with physical health.

Painter Linda Ramsay loaned her large bicycle painting, “Coffee Break,” to the exhibit.

During the reception on Saturday, the DAR supplied refreshments, and also a photo booth so people could get a photo of themselves wearing a “Votes for Women” sash.

The showcase in the lobby has an additional collection of artifacts related to the suffrage movement, including information that Ocean County was the only county in New Jersey to pass a state women’s suffrage referendum. Three years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Lila Thompson became the state’s first assemblywoman, running on the Republican ticket with the slogan “Trained, Fit and Ready.”

On Saturday, Engelsen thanked Smirnov for the use of the library. “I’m just still walking on air about this exhibit,” said Engelsen. “And our tiny (DAR) chapter even received a new applicant, Colleen Hawksby.”

The exhibit is open during library hours through February. The branch is located at 217 Central Ave, Surf City.

— Pat Johnson



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