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INTERVIEW: Executive Director Maria Vann And Chief Curator Richard Barons On The East Hampton Historical Society's "Votes For Women: A Portrait Of Persistence"

Nicole Barylski

College women picketing at the White House. (Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian)

The East Hampton Historical Society's Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence will be among the nationwide centennial celebrations of the passage of the 19th Amendment and women's constitutional right to vote.

The one-day poster exhibition from the Smithsonian is based on their larger installation, but will also delve into East Hampton's own suffrage story and include special items such as "Votes for Women" luncheon and soup plates made in England by John Maddock & Sons, between 1909 and 1914, that were utilized by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont at one of her notable American Suffrage luncheons hosted at her Newport summer cottage "Marble House" during the summers of 1909 and 1914. They will be on view for the first time.

These two "Votes for Women" plates (luncheon and soup) were used by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont at one of her well-publicized American Suffrage luncheons held at her Newport summer cottage "Marble House" during the summers of 1909 and 1914. (Photo: Courtesty of East Hampton History Society)

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence can be seen at the Society's Clinton Academy in East Hampton on Saturday, September 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

We caught up with Maria Vann, Executive Director of the East Hampton Historical Society, and Richard Barons, the Society's Chief Curator, to learn more about this fascinating exhibition.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote, East Hampton Historical Society will present Votes for Women: A Portrait in Persistence. How did the one-day exhibit come to be?

MV: The Society has become associated with the Smithsonian through its participation in Museum Day live and this past year as an honored recipient of the national traveling show Water/Ways of which we were one of only six sites in New York State to host. Through this relationship, we were informed about the opportunity to host a free poster exhibit about women's fight for the vote. We really appreciated that Smithsonian was sharing nationwide this timeline of history across the country for those who could not visit the larger installation in Washington D.C. We thought it would be a great way to honor this anniversary and share our own unique East Hampton suffrage story simultaneously, free to the public.

Why did the Museum decide to only showcase the exhibit for one day?

MV: We chose to show the exhibit for just one day to replicate previous Museum Day live events, which were only one day and encourage the public "not to miss it." In addition, we thought as a one day event, we might encourage more people to come not only to see the exhibit, but meet the members of the League of Women Voters and perhaps even complete a voter registration. We are easing back into site visits during the pandemic, as one might imagine, and this profound storyline is a perfect way to do so.

In addition to posters and imagery from the Smithsonian, the exhibit will encompass objects from East Hampton's suffrage story. Could you please discuss what objects will be highlighted and the area's history in connection to the fight for the 19th Amendment?

One of the featured items. (Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian)

RB: We are augmenting the Smithsonian's scripted panels with several dozen historic photographs that illustrate both Long Island suffragist parades and activities as well as events in New York City and Washington DC. We will also have a selection of photographs by Durell Godfrey of East Hampton's 2017 League of Women Voters march on the anniversary of New York State's successful vote for women's right to vote. A recent gift to the Society of two pieces of original "Votes for Women" ceramics made for Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.

As the election is quickly approaching, League of Women Voters of East Hampton, Shelter Island, and the North Fork will be onsite to register voters. Why was it important to include that component?

MV: It was very important to include the League because as museums it's our responsibility to not only share history, but make it come alive with meaningful engagement for the public. So, as you learn about history, by registering to vote, you are participating in history and possible in one of the most historic elections in recent times. The Society is a stage for preserving and teaching history, but also showing our community that we are constantly making history too.

What else does the Museum have planned?

MV: We are currently working on some great fall online programming for all ages and are anticipating a great holiday season of events, still under wraps as we finalize the details!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

MV: As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1870, "I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives, but as nouns." We have come so far to see that we are indeed NOUNS. Let us celebrate the great legacy of those who came before to make that point so and continue to share that ideal for those yet to realize its power. One of our greatest powers resides in our right to vote!

Pre-Registration is required and there is no fee to attend. Museum-goers are required to wear masks and to follow social distancing protocols.

Clinton Academy Museum is located at 151 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call 631-324-6850 ext. 4 or visit easthamptonhistory.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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