LAKEWOOD RANCH — Just 100 years ago, it was unheard of to have women serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, in the U.S. Senate, on the president’s cabinet and on school boards, county commissions and city councils.
The right to vote? No problem, if you were a man.
Barbara Rowe powerfully brought home the message of how hard-earned — and how recent — was the right to vote for women.
She did so Saturday by becoming suffragette Susan B. Anthony, who fought for more than a half century for women’s right to vote.
Rowe, a Bird Key resident, wore period clothing from the 19th Century, and presented a riveting one-woman performance for an audience of more than 430, marking the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
In her lifetime, Anthony was one of the intellectual leaders of a movement that gave voice to women’s aspirations, and helped turn social norms on their head.
Not only did women lack the right to vote, they had to fight to have their voices heard in public assemblies, or to win any kind of property rights, she said.
A turning point was the passage of a 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913, which would impose a federal income tax on the earnings of men and women. It finally became clear that if women were to be taxed, denying them the right to vote was an indefensible position.
The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving the right to vote to women, was ratified Aug. 18, 1920.
Even with the right to vote, there remains more work to be done, Rowe said.
“My friends, feminism is not dead and you are proof that it is not,” Rowe told the audience to applause.
“Proclaim at last equality under the law to all persons who be citizens,” said Rowe, who first performed a Susan B. Anthony skit in the mid 1970s during the fight to pass an Equal Rights Amendment.
Vicki Waters, chair of the Manatee Commission on the Status of Women, said the purpose of Saturday’s celebration at Polo Grill Ballroom at Lakewood Ranch, was to honor all the women from Abigail Adams to the current day who have fought for women’s rights.
Mona Jain, a River Club resident who is chair of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, said organizers planned to hold attendance to 400 for Saturday’s celebration, but ended up admitting more than 430, and having to turn away others.
Among those attending was Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, to read a proclamation from Gov. Charlie Crist.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.