TEWKSBURY — Sponsored and hosted by the Tewksbury Public Library, The Boston Women’s Heritage Trail marched into Tewksbury on March 5, 2020, at 7 p.m. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.
Catherine Dibble went to the library on the behalf of the organization, and gave a presentation titled “Road to the Vote; The Boston Women’s Suffrage Trail. A Project of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.”
Dibble began her presentation by elaborating on how the BWHT was called to founding. 31 years ago, a Boston Public Schools teacher took her students on a tour of historic statues in the city. At the end of the tour, one of the girls asked her teacher:
“Where are the women?”
As an individual who worked at the Boston Public Library, this story was one that resonated with her deeply, which caused her to join the Trail.
The BWHT also draws inspiration from Abigail Adams, and the letter she sent to her husband, future president John, that urged him to “remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
“The Road to the Vote” took attendees on a tour of Boston between the Seneca Falls Convention, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Suffrage Movement, all the way to when the 19th Ammendment was ratified and passed. The tour included landmarks of women’s history, statues and sculptures honoring the legacies of influential suffragists, and going into the accomplishments and profiles of these bold and powerful women.
The Boston Women’s Heritage Trail has had a hand in preserving and restoring the history of Women’s Suffrage back to the streets of Boston. The group helped bring the Boston’s Women’s Memorial to Commonwealth Avenue, at Fairfield Street, in 2003.
Meredith Bergmann sculpted three statues, each paying respect to an influential woman of the suffrage movement. The three ladies featured are Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone, and Phillis Wheatley.
Stone was the leader of the New England suffrage movement, co-founder of the suffrage newspaper The Women’s Journal, an active abolitionist, one of the first women in Massachusetts to earn a college degree, as she did from Oberlin in 1847, helped organize the first National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, founded the American Women’s Suffrage Association, and was the first married woman to keep her family name. She is regarded as the “morning star” of suffrage, and her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, carried the torch.
Phillis Wheatley was the first African American poet published in book form, rose from slavery after being sold to the Wheatley family in Boston, and became a writer of international acclaim. Today, she is regarded as the mother of African American Literature.
Goals of the BWHT include renaming more Boston Schools after women, as only 10 of the 125 schools in Boston are named after women. Plans for a statue in New York City’s Central Park based on women from the suffrage movement are in motion, and the BWHT is driven to bring it to life, thanks once again to the help of Bergmann.
As of right now, there are three statues in Central Park of women, and all of them are fictional (Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, and the Angel of the Waters/Bethesda Fountain).
At the end of her presentation, Dibble brought the movement to the modern day, as suffrage is still an issue today for women of color. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, originally passed to eliminate racial discrimination in voting, was edited and revised in 2013 to remove some of the original parts. Dibble emphasized the importance of voting rights today and how women should rally together to ensure that we do not regress as a society, and let the removal of rights for women of color blindside citizens.
As she brought her time to a close, Dibble had one important message for the women in the room:
“Thank you very much. And vote! Vote! Vote!”