2016-07-21 / Columnists

“1st Act in Legislature made a Spittoon, a Flower Vase” - Part III

by Sandi Brewster-walker

As the women’s suffrage movement grew, Rosalia Gardner Jones’s of Oyster Bay, and Lillian Fishel, of Babylon, continued to fight hard, and over the next few years were joined by other local women living on the South Shore of Long Island. The New York State women’s suffrage movement would also receive much needed financial support during these years.

The will of Miriam (Squires) Leslie, the former publisher of Leslie’s Weekly in September 1914, made $1 million available to Carrie Chapman Catt for “the furtherance of the cause of woman suffrage.”

The following month on Oct. 23, the South Side Signal (Babylon) newspaper reported that Dorothy (Nicoll) Hubert, of Bellport, had come to Babylon from Rochester after attending a women’s suffrage convention, where she carried a suffrage banner in the final parade.

The following year in Suffolk County, “Suffrage in Deer Park” was an article that ran in the South Side Signal on July 9, 1915 announcing a meeting for the following day. Dorothy (Nicoll) Hubert had the honor of giving the first official suffrage speech at a dance held at the Acorn Athletic Club in Deer Park.


1915 – New York State Fair – Syracuse NY 1915 – New York State Fair – Syracuse NY Two months later, the Signal wrote on Nov. 2, women were asking men to “vote for the women’s suffrage amendment,” however it took two (2) more years to pass.

After years of trying to get an Amendment passed, local Long Island women were traveling throughout the state to speak, and promote the women’s suffrage cause. On Sept. 9, 1916, the Port Jefferson Echo newspaper stated, Dorothy (Nicoll) Hubert spoke and was organizing woman suffrage upstate New York. She was also invited to speak at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.

After the New York State Fair, Long Island women continued to make the news as they pushed forward on their organizing. The South Side Signal issue Sept. 29, ran an announcement for the conference of Suffrage Workers of Suffolk County to be held at the home of Lillian (Fishel) Oliver on Sept. 30 with Gertrude Brown presiding.


1913 Pilgrimage to Washington DC 1913 Pilgrimage to Washington DC By 1917, the South Side Signal column, “Woman Suffrage Notes” had been introduced, and was covering the local movement efforts. Later that year, the newspaper changed their column name to “Equal Suffrage Notes,” extensively covering the state, and national campaign activities.

Some of the women after years of organizing got aggressive, Lucy Burns, of Brooklyn, editor of The Suffragist, a weekly journal was an organizer of the picketing of President Woodrow Wilson’s administration in January 1917. With others she was also arrested for picketing and obstructing traffic.

The South Side Signal, July 22, mentioned another meeting to be held at the original Babylon theatre. Just four years before the women’s suffrage meeting, ground was broken to build the theatre on Deer Park Avenue and George Street on January 24, 1913.

According to the Cinema Treasure website, the tin roofed 32 x 100 foot structure was built for Graham Polley. “The theatre opened on April 15, 1913.”

Back on July 22, 1917, the women’s suffrage meeting speakers were both national and international in repartition. Merrill Dennison, of Canada, and the American Ambulance Corp. stationed in France was on sick leave, and was scheduled to speak on “Suffrage as a War Measure.” Mrs. James Lees Laidlaw, vice chair of the NYS Suffrage Party talk would be “Suffrage, the True Patriotism.”

The South Side Signal continued, the women’s suffrage movement on Aug. 16, reported on the second assembly district suffrage convention in Huntington the previous week. Sarah Edey, of Bellport, was elected chair, Katherine (Waas) Ward, of Babylon, elected vice chair and Lillian M. Call, of Bay Shore, treasurer.

Sarah (Birdsall Otis) Edey (1872-1940) was born in Bellport, the daughter of James Otis, a NYS Senator, and Mary Adelia (Ludlum). She later married Frederick Edey, a member of the New York Stock Exchange. She was very active in the woman suffrage movement and the National Girl Scout of America. Sarah was also the first editor of the Girl Scout Leader magazine, and served as president of the National Girl Scouts of America from 1930 to 1935. Camp Edey affiliated with the Suffolk County Girl Scouts in Bellport is named in her honor.

Katherine (Waas) Ward (1877-1966) was married to the famous John Montgomery Ward, who was 17 years older than her. John “Monti” as he was known, was American Major League Baseball pitcher, shortstop and manager.

Lillian M. Call (1884-1964) was born in Islip, the daughter of Frank Call and Bertha (Collins). When Lillian was involved in the women’s suffrage movement she was living in Bay Shore where her mother was born. Her father Frank was superintendent of highways, Town of Islip, 1909- 1911.

In late summer of 1917, the New York State Women’s Suffrage Party held a very important conference in Saratoga on Aug. 29 and 30.

On Sept. 14, it was reported that a delegation from Babylon attended the recent suffrage conference at the Bellport home of Sarah Edey, chair of the Second Campaign District. At the conference there was a list of 15,017 Suffolk County women, and plans were made for a Riverhead fair to take place the following week. The women told the reporter,

“The famous suffrage grape juice punch will be sold.”

The South Side Signal, October 19, wrote about the upcoming parade of New York State woman to be held on Sat., Oct. 27 with 2,500 marchers and 1,011,503 signatures.

Finally after years of struggle on Nov.

6, 1917, New York State gave women the right to vote!

New York State women entered 1918 with the right to vote, and the County Review newspaper on June 21, ran an article called “Two-Thirds Republican” stating that over 8,000 local women had enrolled in the four parties: Republican, Democrat, Prohibition, and Socialist. It also printed a rumor that Ida Sammis, of Huntington was planning to be a candidate for the NYS Assembly.

The newspaper estimated that about 25,000 Suffolk County women were eligible to vote. The last day that women could enroll to qualify to vote in the primaries was on Sept. 3.

Ruth Litt, of Patchogue, chair of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Republican County Committee delivered 2,000 voter forms to the Board of Elections. Huntington had the largest enrollment of women of any Suffolk County Town.

Ida Florence (Bunce) Sammis did run in 1918 from the 2nd Suffolk County District for a New York State Assembly seat. She became one of the first two New York State Assemblywomen in the 142nd NYS Legislature in 1919.

“…according to legend, New York Assemblywoman Ida Sammis’ first act in the legislature was to polish the brass spittoon assigned to her, and to place it on her desk as a flower vase?”

Ida’s second husband was Alden Woodruff, a retired doctor from Babylon. After Woodruff ’s death she married a 3rd time to George Satchwell. Ida died June 3, 1943.

Carrie Chapman (Lane) Catt followed Susan B. Anthony as NAWSA president. She served twice; her first term was from 1900 to 1904, and her second term from 1915 to 1920. Her leadership had focused on success in New York State, prior to 1917 only western states had granted woman suffrage. Catt’s strategy to support President Woodrow Wilson’s World War I efforts led to the approval of women’s suffrage in 1917. This resulted in President Wilson supporting the National Woman Suffragist Movement in 1918. During her second term, the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution on August 26, 1920 was adopted. Catt went on to found the League of Women Voters in 1920, and served as the honorary president until her death in 1947.

Part 4, of our story will highlights local women like, Grace Bonheur (Louden) Burns (born: 1884), of Amityville, who is said to have worked behind the scenes in the local women’s suffragist movement. Coming of age during this time period, influenced her life!

The writer is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute and served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at the United States Department of Agriculture. Readers can reach her at acjnews@rcn.com or direct letters to her at CJ Publishers Inc., 85 Broadway, Amityville NY 11701.

The strong Long Island women suffragists led the way for Grace to become involved in the politics of the “old” Republican Party, and her son William Burns would become Mayor of the Village of Amityville, NYS Representative, and finally NYS Senator.

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