Friday, January 17, 2020

Indiana Women's Suffrage Centennial

Steuben County's newest Suffragettes!

My brown corduroy skirt hangs on a hook in my closet. It is not used very often. It does not work well for Johnny Appleseed or all those lovely fall festivals. No, it just works when giving house tours of my old house in the winter.  Or, whenever I feel like celebrating the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote! Tonight is that night. I pull out the skirt; give it a quick ironing, pin up my hat, and head out the door with a basket full of scones. Because I want to maintain my historical look, I wear my cape instead of a coat and the wind whips the flaps open before I can even get to my Jeep.

It is already dark when I arrive at the Cline Museum. This is a new experience of visiting the museum in the dark and seeing it ablaze with light in the windows. Once I brought my book club to the Cline in the evening, but I was the first to arrive so I never saw the lights streaming through the stained glass windows. Now the beauty of it astounds me as much as the cold air as I carry my supplies up the back steps of the museum. There I am meet by three lovely women who are dressed like me…Hope Wilson, Linda Mowry, and Cathy French. I hand Cathy her borrowed hat, place my scones on the table, and get directions from our leader, Hope.

Hope is like a fast moving bird all around the museum putting out placards and trivia quizzes and sign in sheets for the evening. Finally, everything is ready including our “Let Women Vote” sashes, and the Suffragette flag blowing out on the front porch. Jim Somers joins us sitting in Dr. Cameron’s office waiting for folks to arrive and perhaps wanting tours of the museum.

The door opens and our first guests arrive. The four of us surround them, take their coats, offer refreshments, trivia quizzes, but more arrive and we spread out. We tell our stories, share our plans and send them off to Jim for a nighttime tour.

It is a night of exceptional quality as we begin the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in the USA. Our brochures are ready and printed with all of our events…something every month…and a list of books and films. For a time I stand back to watch and listen. There is much joy in this old house as friends and neighbors pour in to see what we are up to and share in this event. For a moment, I consider the fact that I almost turned Hope down when she called in the fall with this idea of hers. She and Peg Dilbone decided early on that we should celebrate in a big way. My very first reaction was to turn it down. I just cannot take on another project. However, really, how could I say “no” to this centennial event?

I join back in and continue conversations with folks still coming in. By 8:00, the crowds are thinner, cookies are in shorter supply, and the chill of that old house is seeping into our bones. We all decide our hats have kept us warm all evening!
The house is quiet with our guests gone. Jim decides he can leave, and we thank him profusely for giving the tours of the house. He brings in the outdoor signs and our flag before he locks the door behind him.

All that remains are the four of us. We sample some of the leftover cookies and scones before we pack up. We pull out names for the door prizes and give calls. We know the winners are happy to receive our call! We gather names, quizzes, and all the placards.

The four of us haul our supplies back to our cars. It is cold and my cape gives off no warmth, but we wait on one another to make sure our cars start and everyone is able to leave at the same time.

The drive home is a short one. Once inside I put on the kettle and ponder over the evening. Celebrating this 100th anniversary is pure joy for me. I want all the women to know the history and our upcoming events. Pick up our brochure at the local libraries and send me your stories.

I hang my brown corduroy skirt back up on the hook.

Until next time…