Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Famous 'woman suffrage' trial re-enactment slated

By Susan Lauffer | Special to the E-E | Imagine not being able to vote or even voice an opinion in public. College was out of the question and so was working in a profession. In 1776, the country may have won independence, but women did not.

The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, was ratified Aug. 26, 1920, ending 72 years of struggle to extend the voting privilege to women. No longer could the United States or any state deny the vote to women.

On Aug. 27, Bartlesville Women's Network will celebrate the 85th anniversary of "woman suffrage" by conducting a rally, a march to the courthouse, and a re-enactment of the famous trial, United States versus Susan B. Anthony.

Women's Network President Pat Netzer said, "We stand on the shoulders of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all those who gave significant portions of their lives to secure the vote for women. It has been less than 100 years that women have been allowed to vote in the United States. It is a story that every person should know and not forget."

Members of the legal community and other prominent Washington County citizens will dress-up and act to teach the history of the suffrage movement in the United States.

The public is invited to the free events and "period costume" is welcome.

At 10 a.m., the celebration will begin with "a rally for woman suffrage" at the Bartlesville Community Center.

Nationally acclaimed storyteller Fran Stallings will narrate the story of how women won the vote in 1920. A cast of characters, including nine suffragists and one man opposed to woman suffrage will cover a period in American history from 1840 to 1920. Some known to history and some unknown, each member of the rally cast was a real person who participated in the movement which led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

The suffragists are Quaker minister and teacher Lucretia Mott, portrayed by Pauline Kenton; Seneca Falls Convention attendee and activist Emily Collins, portrayed by Becky Wallace; abolitionist and national suffrage leader Lucy Stone, portrayed by Ann Cleary; journalist Grace Greenwood, portrayed by Harriet Guthrie; Salina, Kan., boarding house keeper Mother Bickerdyke, portrayed by Deborah Langley; former slave Sojourner Truth, portrayed by Bettye Williams; actress Olive Logan, portrayed by Fran Stallings; leader of the militant wing of the suffrage movement Alice Paul, portrayed by Washington County Commissioner Linda Herndon; and president of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1920 Carrie Chapman Catt, portrayed by Pat Netzer.

The lone speaker opposed to extending the vote to women is Oklahoma's first governor, Charles Haskell, who will be portrayed by Thad Satterfield.

Following the rally, songs of suffrage will be sung, followed immediately by a parade, led by the actors, and complete with banners and placards endorsing "Votes for Women." Participants will march to the Washington County Courthouse for a re-enactment of the 1873 New York trial, United States versus Susan B. Anthony.

In November 1872, Anthony and suffragists in nine other states managed to cast their ballots in the presidential election. Three weeks later a federal marshall arrested Anthony at her home in Rochester, N.Y., for the felony offense of "voting without a lawful right to vote."

The third floor courtroom of the Washington County Courthouse will be the scene of what some legal scholars called "the trial of the half-century." To the extent possible, the courtroom will be stripped of modern furnishings and adorned with inkwells, glass water pitchers, paper fans, and a spittoon. A portrait of Ulysses S. Grant, president of the United States in 1873, will hang over the judge's chair.

Defendant Susan B. Anthony will be portrayed by District Judge Janice P. Dreiling. James W. Connor, local attorney and former state legislator, will play Federal Circuit Court Judge Ward Hunt, who at the time was also a sitting associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Associate District Judge Curtis L. DeLapp will be Richard Crowley, U.S. district attorney who prosecuted Anthony. Local attorney Bruce Peabody will be former Judge Henry R. Seldon, defense counsel for Anthony. Witnesses will include local attorney Scott Buhlinger, who will play the part of Beverly W. Jones, an election inspector who was also arrested for having allowed Anthony to vote. District Attorney Rick Esser will play John E. Pound, a U.S. assistant district attorney who assisted in the preparation of the prosecution's case.

The trial will be narrated by Women's Network member Joan Driesker, who also serves as the trial's director. Throughout the trial, excerpts from the correspondence of over 50 years between Susan B. Anthony and suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be read. Anthony, the correspondent, will be portrayed by former County Commissioner Joanne Bennett. Stanton, the correspondent, will be played by long-time community leader Carolyn Price.

The rest of the trial cast includes Special Judge Kyra Franks Williams as Harriet Stanton Blatch (daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton), local attorney Marty Meason as the bailiff, and Examiner-Enterprise reporter Tim Hudson as the court reporter.

In 1873 only men were eligible for jury duty. Accordingly, the jurors are played by Tom Janer (Foreman), Glenn Davis, Rob Fries, Jim Hess, John Holden, Richard Mitchell, Thad Satterfield, Merrill Schnitzer, Earl Sears, Cliff Sousa, Allan Stocker and Jesse J. Worten III.

Following the trial, everyone is invited to return to the Community Center for a reception and refreshments. Students who attend will be given a "proof of attendance" card to be submitted for possible class credit.

The story of the struggle for suffrage is a long one. In 1776, despite Abigail Adams' pleas to her husband, John, to "remember the ladies" in the framing of the United States Constitution, that historic document left to the individual states the determination of who could vote.

At that time, both women and slaves were considered the property of men. Women, in fact, had fewer rights than a male inmate of an insane asylum. Women were prevented from attending college and barred from all professions. Women who dared speak in public in the early years of American democracy were thought "unladylike" at best, and indecent at worst.

During the nineteenth century, some women became involved in the fight to end slavery. But at a World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from being delegates or otherwise participating because they were women.

In 1848 these two women helped organize the first women's rights convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. It was at this meeting that the demand for woman suffrage was first made public. Further conventions were held until 1861 when women put aside suffrage activities to help in the Civil War, as north and south battled over slavery.

The 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War in 1868, stated that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens. The Amendment also said that states could not abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens nor deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

Following ratification of the 14th Amendment, the National Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1869. Elizabeth Cady Stanton served as president. Women in several states attempted to vote, but their ballots, though cast, were not counted.

In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified. It stated that citizens cannot be denied the vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude. It took nearly another century until the federal government forced all of the states to adhere to this amendment by passing the Voting Rights Act in the 1970's.

The granting of suffrage to former slaves but not to women incensed the suffragists. A series of court cases were brought, designed to test whether voting was a "privilege" of citizenship which should be extended to women. One of these cases was United States versus Susan B. Anthony.

The trial transcript is the foundation for the "script" of the re-enactment Aug. 27, along with the actual correspondence between the most famous of woman suffrage leaders, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But the outcome of the trial was predetermined by the politics of the day. Judge Hunt, an appointee to the Supreme Court by President Grant, was not about to open the floodgates that would extend the vote to the women of the nation. Despite a courageous and well-articulated defense by her attorney, former Judge Henry R. Selden, Anthony was found guilty in a procedure that would be totally unacceptable today. Although Anthony was charged with a felony offense, Judge Hunt refused to allow the jury to decide the case, finding her guilty as charged and directing the verdict.

In 1875 the Missouri case of Minor versus Happersett was heard by the United States Supreme Court. The court held that being a citizen does not guarantee women the right to vote. The Court said that each state could decide who, among its citizens, were entitled to vote.

Examiner Enterprise full article

1 comment:

Jean Warner said...

I was delighted to discover your blog. Only, it looks like your last post was awhile ago. Blogs are supposed to be added too periodically.

Let your readers know what the network is up to or what some of your local (s)heroes are up to or what women's groups in Bartlesville are up to PLEASE!

(If is is too much work, add a few more people on as contributors and share the load.)


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