The Boyertown Junior Woman’s Club and Boyertown Historical Society invited the community to have equali-TEA on Nov. 1 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
“A nice size crowd gathered throughout the day. Luann Zambanini from the Historical Society compiled and shared an exciting and interesting account of many of the women who worked to bring about this legislation,” said Boyertown Junior Woman's Club member Judy Wetzel.
The purpose of the event was to bring awareness, “to the anniversary of this great responsibility that we all share in voting for our representatives in Congress” and bring “an understanding of the struggle of women as they spoke out, demonstrated, were even arrested and jailed, in the name of democracy and equality for women,” said Wetzel. “So we don't forget all that women endured in the 70-year struggle it took to accomplish.”
“This moment (in history is significant) because it's the 100th anniversary and a presidential election year,” continued Wetzel. “While it's important to vote in all elections, this year has seen a huge surge in the number of voters. The 2020 presidential election is truly pivotal in our country. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment in such a year as this seems quite monumental.”
About 15 people, both men and women and a few youth, enjoyed some “equali-TEA” and cookies while hearing from Luann Zambanini, a member of the Boyertown Historical Society Board of Directors. She talked about women’s suffrage and the 70-year struggle surrounding their victory, the passing of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote.
“Before the election was a perfect time to talk about the 19th Amendment,” said Zambanini.
The Woman’s Club and Historical Society had hoped to host the celebration a few months ago, but due to COVID-19 restrictions they could not host a group gathering.
“Our goal was to be able to especially reach the young women of our area to explain how the right for women to vote was a long battle many women fought for years,” she said. “Many women like Susan B. Anthony, gave their life to the cause, most never lived to see the amendment passed. So we women need to recognize how hard women fought so that we could vote.”
When Zambanini was approached to be a part of this presentation, she knew little about the women’s suffrage movement.
“I read books and truly had my eyes opened and became very thankful to the women who gave their lives so that we, the women of today, would have rights, the biggest the right to vote,” she said.
During her presentation, Zambanini talked about how women had no rights in the early 1800s.
“If the wife and or children worked, all the money they earned had to go to the man of the house. If a husband beat his wife, drank or gambled all their money away (even what the wife had earned), she could do nothing. If she would leave him, she had no legal rights to anything in the house, including the children!” she said. “Because of things like this, Susan B. Anthony and many women fought hard to get women the right to vote and equal rights for women.”
For Zambanini, her special hero was Alice Paul.
“In 1908 Alice was doing a lot in London for woman’s suffrage, parades, marches and more. Of course through it all, she spent time in jail, which is where she met other Americans like Lucy Burns. In jails, these women did hunger strikes and even refused to wear prison uniforms,” she said.
Zambanini explained that Paul was once sentenced to 7 months in prison. She went on a hunger strike and was force fed three times a day, causing her permanent health issues. She was separated from the other prisoners and put in a psychiatric ward.
“They tried to drive her crazy by torture techniques, but Paul, with her extraordinary mental toughness, never broke despite the terrifying experience,” she said.
Zambanini said that during the movement in 1915, someone from the suffrage movement came to Boyertown to speak at the Boyertown Casket Works. The women’s suffrage movement had a 2,000 pound replica of the Liberty Bell which they took from towns to villages across the 67 counties of Pennsylvania.
“In October of 1915, this truck with the replica Liberty Bell, which they called the Justice Bell, rolled into Boyertown. Miss Adella Potter, field secretary of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, spoke to crowds in front of the Union House and the Cigar Factory in town,” she said.
When Zambanini went to vote on Nov. 3, the lines were long.
“I thought, ‘Do I really want to stand out here for an hour or more to vote?’ Then I thought, ‘Goodness, all those women of yesteryear, my hero Alice Paul who was jailed, force fed and spent her life fighting to vote, of course, I’m going to stand in this long line with my mask on so that I can to vote,” she said. “How could I have even given this a second thought?”
Her message for youth?
“Young women, you have no idea how your life would be different if it hadn’t been for the success of the woman’s suffrage movement,” said Zambanini. “Read about this movement, learn about what women like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and so many others that worked so hard to set all women free. We owe them a debt of gratitude and we need to vote because their lives gave us that right!”
The Boyertown Junior Woman’s Club consists of a group of women who volunteer their time and talents to enrich the Boyertown area and beyond with projects benefiting youth and those in need. BJWC organization is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, one of the world's largest and oldest nonpartisan, nondenominational, women's volunteer service organizations.