‘It’s important to remember the struggles’: March commemorates centennial of women’s right to vote 

  • Members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and others march toward the Town Common from Kendrick Park, Thursday, June 25, 2020 to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and others march toward the Town Common from Kendrick Park, Thursday, June 25, 2020 to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and others march toward the Town Common from Kendrick Park, Thursday, June 25, 2020, to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Assistant Town Clerk Susan Audette, second from left, speaks to members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst, Thursday, June 25, 2020, on the Town Common after their march from Kendrick Park held to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Adrienne Terrizzi, who is the spokesperson for the League of Women Voters of Amherst, speaks to her group and others, Thursday, June 25, 2020 on the Town Common after they marched from Kendrick Park to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Assistant Town Clerk Susan Audette speaks to members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst, Thursday, June 25, 2020, on the Town Common after their march from Kendrick Park held to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • League of Women Voters of Amherst member Phyllis Lehrer wears a mask she fashioned from a handkerchief, Thursday, June 25, 2020, on the Amherst Common after the group's march from Kendrick Park held to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. She organized the march. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and others march toward the Town Common from Kendrick Park, Thursday, June 25, 2020, to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of the League of Women Voters of Amherst and others march toward the Town Common from Kendrick Park, Thursday, June 25, 2020, to recognize the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2020 3:32:19 PM

AMHERST — Elected women serving in all levels of government are making important decisions that Alice Swift, a member of the League of Women Voters of Amherst, says gives her great hope for the future.

“They are leading the charge on things near and dear to my heart,” said Swift, pointing to their work on single-payer healthcare and environmental issues. 

Without women pushing for the right to vote, though, the opportunity for women to serve in elected office may never have happened.

“It’s important to remember the struggles,” Swift said.

Swift was among two dozen people who on Thursday afternoon walked through Amherst center to commemorate the exact date on which Massachusetts ratified the 19th Amendment in 1919.

Mostly women, those participating dressed like the suffragists of the early 20th century, wearing white blouses, T-shirts, pants and skirts, and straw hats, while also having sashes over their shirts marking the centennial of the right to vote.

Phyllis Lehrer, the membership chairwoman for the League, organized the event to recognize Massachusetts becoming the eighth state to ratify the amendment, and a year later, the amendment becoming law when two-thirds of the states passed the amendment.

“It’s reason to celebrate,” Lehrer said. “We have the right to vote.”

Bonnie Isman, voter services chairperson for the League, said she has experience living outside the United States, which has given her even more appreciation for voting. 

“The right to vote, that is your voice,” Isman said.

She has looked at local history, though, and notes that Amherst was not a progressive community at the time, with significant resistance to women voting. Even so, those in Boston got it right, Isman said.

Adrienne Terrizzi, spokeswoman for the League, said the walk was empowering.

“There is an importance to this date and we didn’t want it to go unnoticed,” Terrizzi said. “This is really a celebration of our community, our ancestors and women leaders who brought us the right to vote.”

As many women of color continued to be denied the ability to vote, suffragists advocated for them.  

“They believed the suffrage movement would bring suffrage for all people,” Terrizzi said.

League member Andrea Battle said she was participating in the walk to honor suffragists who pushed for women of color to be permitted to vote, including Augusta Chissell, Margaret Gregory Hawkins, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells.

Battle said she particularly appreciates Wells, who founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in Chicago in 1913, that registered thousands and thousands of African-American women.

“I’m walking for them,” Battle said, adding that one of her missions is to convince more women of color to join the local chapter and get involved in activities.

At the conclusion of the walk on the North Common, next to the Merry Maple tree, Assistant Town Clerk Susan Audette updated people on absentee and early voting and protocols to keep voters safe when Amherst residents head to the polls for primary and presidential elections later this year. 

“We appreciate all the League does for us,” Audette said. 

Terrizzi said one thing the League is doing is advocating for Gov. Charlie Baker to sign an election modernization act to streamline voting and make sure options to vote by mail or at the polls are available.

“We want a safe, accessible primary, as well as general election,” Terrizzi said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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