2017 marked the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in New York State. On November 6, 1917, New York became the first state east of the Mississippi to pass a suffrage amendment. In April 1918 women in Tompkins County voted for the first time, in a local election, on the question of the prohibition of alcohol. That November, Edith Anna Ellis (Class of 1890) became the first woman to run for office in the county. New York State ratified the federal suffrage amendment on June 16, 1919, and in August 1920, the 19th amendment became part of the Constitution: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The path to suffrage was long and arduous, nationally and locally, requiring the efforts of many, many women and men. It is not easy to document the suffrage movement in Ithaca and at Cornell. Newspaper reports can’t be supplemented by many original sources. Nevertheless, in the late 19th and early 20th century, there clearly were active groups in town and on campus, which included students, faculty and faculty wives, staff, and alumnae. Additionally, many students became (or continued to be) active in local suffrage groups and suffrage activities after graduation.
This expanded version of the 2017 exhibit “Woman Suffrage at Cornell,” at Kroch Library, part of Cornell’s celebration of the New York Suffrage Centennial, provides glimpses of that struggle through photographs, broadsides, programs, postcards, and other memorabilia. A companion book, Achieving Beulah Land: The Long Struggle for Suffrage in Tompkins County, New York, by Carol Kammen and Elaine D. Engst, will be published by the Cornell University Library in 2018.