Thursday, August 27, 2020

Pottstown Celebrates 100 Years of Women Voting

The 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment was celebrated Wednesday evening in Smith Family Plaza with period clothes, period "mocktails" and speeches making it clear that 100 years have no sated the appetite for voter suppression.

Two fellows -- Ross Magee of Spring City and Christopher Longeway of Pottstown -- dressed up as the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, who acted as semi-official MCs.

Photos and Video by Evan Brandt
Ross Magee, left, and Christopher Longeway
attended as the Bill of Rights, and 
the Constitution, respectively.
There was a voter registration table, free copies of the Constitution, and a quiz to test your knowledge of the nation's most important founding document.  

And there were speakers.

One of the more direct, was Natash Taylor-Smith of Pottstown.

"When I think about what is happening today, with people trying to steal other people's rights to vote, rights that we as women felt we had earned 100 years ago, an entire century ago, it makes me sick," said Taylor-Smith.

"And when I think about the fact that there are people, who don't understand the importance of their own voice, their own vote, I feel like we have to find a way," she said during one of several speeches given. 

Former Pottstown Councilwoman Rita Paez
urged everyone to register to vote, and to bring
one other person along with them to register.
"The truth of the matter is, if you feel your vote is meaningless, no one would be trying to steal it. No one would be trying to take away something from you, it it wasn't valuable," Taylor-Smith said.

"I think that's so important. As women, as women of color, recognizing that it was not necessarily 1920 that was the dividing line for me and my grandmother," said Taylor Smith. "It was a lot later, when the voting Rights Act of 1964 was passed."

"For those individuals, who think you don't matter, that what you have to say isn't important, think again. Don't let anybody take away from you what someone else died so you could have," she said.

"I want people to remember their power," she said afterward.

"Teach your children and grandchildren about women," said former Pottstown Councilwoman Rita Paez. "Women are so strong and sometimes people don't realize how strong we are."

"When women are united," said Paez, "they can't be defeated."

Rebecca Terrio of Stowe, said vintage clothing is
her hobby and she made the dress she wore Wednesday.
One of those strong women was Marie Ruoff Byron, and Marlene Armato told us about her.

"At 5:30 a.m., on Aug. 31, 1920, Marie Ruoff Byron, a white woman, walked through a drizzling rain for 90 minutes. At 7 a.m.,she arrived at her destination, Hannibal, Missouri's polling station for a special election," Armato said.

"When Byron voted, she made history as the first woman to cast a ballot under the protection of the newly ratified 19th Amendment, which codified women's right to vote," she said.

Armato reminded those gathered there that women can only vote today because of the determination of the suffragettes, who endured arrest, hunger strikes, beatings and more in their quest to bring women into the nation's voting franchise.

Pottstown Councilwoman Trenita Lindsay
and Marlene Armato both spoke Wednesday.
"They would be appalled at the voter suppression still taking place today, the purging of voter rolls," Armato said. "The next thing we have to be aware of is the effort to make the election of our state supreme court judges by gerrymandered districts."

"It was not until 1965 that women of color were able to vote," said Pottstown Councilwoman Trenita Lindsay.

"It is very important for women of color, and people of color, to vote, especially in this election. I can't stress it enough," Lindsay said.

"It if hadn't been for the women who came before me, I wouldn't be on borough council today," she said.

"I want to thank the women who led this journey for us, because it wasn't an easy journey," Lindsay said. "There were a lot of challenges for them, but I appreciate them and I thank them and I hope to see everybody in November."

Rita Paez, center rear in the photo, came to the 19th Amendment celebration in Smith Family Plaza with many family and friends. 

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