Suffrage Movement has Local Ties

Mrs. Althea Staples attended the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association conference in Harrisburg in 1915 as a Monroe County delegate.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

March has been designated Women’s History Month. A key piece of women’s history lies in the fight for the right to vote. For centuries, women have spoken out, voicing their beliefs that they should be allowed to vote, just like men. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 work about equality of the sexes to Susan B. Anthony’s 1872 arrest in Rochester, N.Y., for defiantly registering to vote, women have worked to raise awareness of gender inequality.

The National Woman Suffrage Association was founded in 1869 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton serving as president. The Suffrage Movement was a social revolution that impacted everyone, including Monroe County citizens. Often referred to as “Suffragettes,” these women lobbied for treatment equal with men and for the right to vote.

Locally, the Suffrage Movement was headed by Mrs. Althea Staples, wife of Judge Charles B. Staples. In 1914, Mrs. Staples and other local women formed the Stroudsburg Women’s Civic Club. This group became active in the community and established committees to report on social issues of the day. Mrs. Staples organized meetings at Courthouse Square to report on any legislative bills that would impact the suffrage cause and even arranged for the suffrage movie, Your Girl and Mine to be screened in town.

By 1915, Mrs. Staples had become chairwoman of the Women’s Suffrage Society of Monroe County. Suffrage gardens began to appear throughout Stroudsburg; such gardens were easily recognized as they were comprised entirely of yellow flowers. Yellow became the color of the suffrage movement. Even local business owners decorated their window fronts with yellow ribbons and flowers to support Monroe County women’s suffrage.

Slowly, individual states recognized the voice of these women. In 1890, Wyoming became the first state with voting rights for women. By 1917, sixteen states joined Wyoming in granting women the right to vote.

After years of lobbying, debating and struggling, the 19th Amendment was passed. Section 1 of the 19th amendment to the US constitution reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

With Tennessee as the deciding vote in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, and women across the U.S., including Monroe County, were given the right to vote. Today, the movement that granted equal voting rights to women is still active in the form of the League of Women Voters.

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