Centennial Rally to Celebrate Women’s Suffrage Rights Planned in East Hampton

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Photo of the John Singer Sargent painting of Mrs. Thomas L. (May Groot) Manson, done in 1890 or 1891, now in Honolulu Museum of Art.

By Christine Sampson

The year 1917 was a memorable one in history. The U.S. joined World War I. The cost of postage stamps was raised to 3 cents an ounce. San Francisco’s famous city-run streetcars made their debut.

And women in New York State won a hard-fought right-to-vote campaign that yielded a successful referendum in November that year, following several Midwest states that had already begun allowing women to vote and one state – Montana – that had already elected one woman, Jeanette Rankin, to become the first woman to serve in Congress.

The League of Women Voters will celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage rights in New York State on Thursday, August 24, by recreating a rally that was held in East Hampton in 1913. The rally will start at 2 p.m. in front of 117 Main Street, which was the home of Thomas L. Manson and his wife, May Groot Manson.

May Groot Manson, for whom an historic marker stands now in front of the house, was a key figure in the women’s suffrage movement as it unfolded in East Hampton. Yet according to Arlene Hinkemeyer, the chairwoman of the Suffrage Centennial Committee of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, no biography or detailed profile of Mrs. Manson had ever been written during her time.

“I had been researching the East Hampton suffragists back in 1998, when the League was getting ready to march in the East Hampton 350th anniversary parade,” Ms. Hinkemeyer said in an interview. “That’s when I first learned about Mrs. Thomas L. Manson. It took a lot of research before I found out what her first name was.”

Ms. Hinkemeyer’s research into Mrs. Manson spanned New York Times, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and East Hampton Star archives. “She did so many good works in East Hampton,” Ms. Hinkeymeyer said. “The only sad thing is that she died in September of 1917 so she was not alive to see the referendum pass in November of 1917. She’s sort of an unsung hero.”

The rally next week will take participants from 117 Main Street, where Mary Jane Brock, the current owner of the Groot/Mansion house, will offer a greeting, to the East Hampton Library. Bruce Beyer, the snare drummer from the Sag Harbor Community Band, will lead the parade to the library. There, remarks will be given by New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. Coline Jenkins of Greenwich, Connecticut, who is a descendant of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who helped lead the 1848 Seneca Falls Conference that pushed for women’s right to vote, and Ms. Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, who spoke at the suffrage rally in East Hampton in 1913, will also speak at the event.

East Hampton was not the only municipality represented in the 1913 rally. Ms. Hinkemeyer said documents show Sag Harbor was represented by about 20 people.

Rally participants next week are encouraged to wear white, to dress in 1917-style attire, to represent one of the original 1913 suffragists or wear a gold “votes for women” sash, which can be purchased from the League of Women Voters for $10. For more information, call (631) 324-4637 or visit lwvhamptons.org/contact.html.

“I’m looking forward to a good-weather day and to our excellent speakers,” Ms. Hinkemeyer said. “This is an event that people can really participate in, so we think it will be a lot of fun.”

Photo of the 1913 rally in the East Hampton Star, August 1913. Photo courtesy League of Women Voters of the Hamptons

Photo of the Pomeroy Foundation historic suffrage marker unveiled by the Village of East Hampton on June 2. Photo courtesy League of Women Voters of the Hamptons

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