County Officials Unveil New Historic Marker
MAYVILLE – Women’s suffrage was commemorated Friday as a new historic marker was unveiled at the Chautauqua County Courthouse.
The marker was revealed to the public by Chautauqua County historian Michelle Henry and County Executive George Borrello.
The new marker (No. 478) commemorates the arrival of women’s suffragist Susan B. Anthony who spoke on premises at the old courthouse building on Dec. 26, 1854. The visit was the first stop for Anthony in an attempt to establish the rights of women in every county in New York. After speaking in Mayville, she then traveled to Sherman for an additional speaking engagement there.
“Chautauqua County played an interesting role in that movement (women’s suffrage) and that is why we got the marker,” County historian Michelle Henry said. “She (Susan B. Anthony) was such an important figure in that movement.”
Henry described that Anthony saw women were not being heard often in the public square.
“She really felt women were at a disadvantage,” Henry said. “Women could not inherit more than a fraction of their husbands estates, women’s earnings were completely controlled by her husband and a women couldn’t be the legal guardian of her own children (if her husband passed away).”
Henry described that Anthony believed that a key step would be women’s right to vote.
“She really felt that the one and only to correct what she thought were inequalities for women was to be given the right to vote,” Henry said. “She thought that was a vital effort so women could gain equality. She was disappointed that they weren’t able to make anything happen on a national level so she decided to start at the local level.”
Henry said that it was under these circumstances that she arrived in Chautauqua County.
The installation of the marker was made possible after Henry received a grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. The foundation was established in 2005 to help celebrate community events across the United States with signage. As such the foundation has funded grants for roadside markers in New York State and elsewhere.
The marker is part of the Pomeroy Foundation’s New York State Women’s Suffrage Historic Marker Program. It is in collaboration with Humanities New York.
The program was started in 2017 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of womens’s suffrage in the United States. The goal of the program is to commemorate the heritage of women’s suffrage by installing markers in locations with historic connection to the movement.
According to the foundation’s website, wgpfoundation.org, 179 grants averaging $1,065 were awarded to communities in New York in 2018.
Borrello spoke on behalf on the Pomeroy Foundation. He also cited the historic significance the county had in women’s suffrage.
“Chautauqua County had the largest women’s equality club in the nation,” Borrello said. “We were far ahead of the curve in women’s suffrage (in Chautauqua County).”
The new marker is located on the lawn in front of the Courthouse at 1 N. Erie St.