SARASOTA -- History was alive and inspiring today's generation of women Saturday in Sarasota.
Susan B. Anthony, who dedicated her life to the women's suffrage movement, stepped out of the history books.
"It was 'We the people,' not 'We the white man,' " said Sally Matson, playing the role of Anthony.
Hundreds of women, as well as men, gathered at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sarasota on Saturday for the 20th Annual Women's Equity Luncheon in honor of the 94th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote.
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The luncheon's guest speaker, Matson, performed her one-woman show using Anthony's letters, speeches and diaries to bring the activist's efforts for women's rights to life Saturday.
"Do you see one half of the citizens of this nation after a century of boasting liberty are still political slaves," Matson said. "We are utterly tired of being pushed around and insulted."
Anthony died 14 years before women got the right to vote, attendees were reminded.
Also Saturday, Manatee County Sheriff's Major Connie Shingledecker was honored for "her leadership, dedication and tireless commitment in making the difference in the lives of women and children at the local, state and national level."
She was presented the award by the National Association of Commissions for Women and the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.
"Initially when I started at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office there were many, many struggles," Shingledecker said.
"Nobody would have ever guessed that I would have the opportunities to do all the things that I have done."
Shingledecker shared what she often tells her investigators.
"You'll never know the lives you save, only the ones you don't," Shingledecker said.
She also challenged those in attendance.
"Follow in the footsteps of those women that have come before us to support, mentor and volunteer," Shingledecker said. "There are so many ways we can give back to our community and encourage young women to be the future that we all know you can be and make the changes that we know you must so we can live in a better world."
Betty Schoenbaum, co-honorary chair of the luncheon, was also honored.
"I feel the electrifying power of women," Schoenbaum said. "It's a shame that Susan B. Anthony isn't here today to see how far we have come."
The event gathered nearly 600 people from Manatee and Sarasota counties to celebrate women's equality and the continued efforts to bridge the gap between men and women.
Sunny Boyd, with Henry Lawrence's campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives, was among the many who frequent the annual event.
"I think anything that focuses on bringing people together for continuing and strengthening civil rights for women, Asians, comprehensive immigration, civil liberties for the gay community, everyone," Boyd said. "It's important to keep being role models for this generation and the next generation."
Circuit Court judge hopeful and Assistant State Attorney Art Jackman were among the men in attendance.
"Clearly this is an important event to reflect on a time not too long ago when women were not afforded the right to vote," Jackman said. "We cherish that."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.