VOTES FOR WOMEN
- Grant Recipient
National Votes for Women Trail
- 102 Genesee St, Auburn, NY 13021, USA
- 42.931070096221, -76.566919063013
National Collaborative for Women's History Sites
Throughout the mid-19th Century, Cayuga County in New York served as a hotbed for social and political activism, which featured reformers such as Harriet Tubman, Frances Seward and Martha Coffin Wright. During the second half of the 19th-century and into the 20th, activists in Cayuga County continued to build off the groundwork established by these early reformers as they petitioned for women’s suffrage.
Case in point: the Cayuga County Political Equality Club (PEC).
Founded in 1891 with the support of the New York State Suffrage Association, the Cayuga County PEC established its headquarters in Auburn, New York. Using speeches, parades, petitions and outreach, the Cayuga County PEC campaigned for women’s suffrage throughout the county until woman gained the right to vote in New York in 1917.
Leading the charge for this new generation of reformers were figures such as the club’s first President, Emily Howland, and Vice President Eliza Wright Osborne. The former was an abolitionist, pro-suffrage advocate and supporter of education reform; while the latter shared the same ideals and was present at the founding of the New York State Woman’s Suffrage Association. Osborne would also go on to fund construction of the new Women’s Educational and Industrial Union (WEIU) in 1908, also commemorated by another Pomeroy funded historic marker.
From 1914-1916 the Headquarters of the Cayuga County PEC operated at the location where this historic marker sits. Located in the heart of downtown Auburn, windows were plastered with pro-women’s suffrage literature meant to draw attention to those passing by. Nearby, the aforementioned WEIU was within walking distance–just a quick stroll down Exchange Street–which provided working class women with educational opportunities and resources as Auburn grew as an industrial and manufacturing hub. Many of the women who benefitted from the WEIU offerings went on to participate in the women’s suffrage movement, and the two organizations created a pipeline of community activists that helped lead the charge in Cayuga County.
The local PEC headquarters in Auburn was described in the May, 1914 edition of The Woman Voter as such:
In the center of Auburn’s business section there is a store whose windows, always cheerful with yellow banners, yellow dolls and other yellow souvenirs, draw the attention of many passersby. Within there are a hospitable davenport and easy chairs, a well-filled bookcase and a travelling library, a piano, several tables whereon on pamphlets, handbills and suffrage periodicals, and, on the wall, maps, posters, banners and blackboard announcements.
Local organizations dedicated to establishing women’s suffrage, such as the Cayuga County PEC, were crucial to the movement. Not only did these clubs demonstrate widespread support, but they also served as visible beacons within their communities, garnering attention to the cause by offering educational outreach and supporting political activism relating to women’s suffrage. In 1917, women’s right to vote in New York State elections was secured after a hard-fought campaign spanning several generations of activists and organizations, such as the Cayuga County PEC and its members.