OTTUMWA — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a suffragist, traveled time from the 1800s to share her story at the Wapello County Historical Society and Museum Clubhouse Saturday in celebration of the centennial of the 19th amendment.
Laura Keyes, a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, portrayed Stanton through monologue. The setting was in Seneca Falls, NY on May 19, 1866. She shared her life from childhood to advocating for women and her commitment to the anti-slavery movement.
In her childhood, Stanton was exposed to law and other so called male pursuits such as equestrianism and studying Greek. At 16 she graduated from Johnston Academy and could not enroll in college so she enrolled in Troy Female Seminary instead.
She was so adamant for equality that she insisted “obey” be dropped from her wedding vows to her marriage to Henry Stanton in 1840 and was set on keeping her maiden name, Cady.
Stanton helped write the Declaration of Sentiments, which laid out what rights a woman should have and compared the lack of women’s rights to the fight for independence from the British.
In 1851, she met Susan B. Anthony and partnered together to advocate for women. In 1869, they established the National Women’s Suffrage Movement. Stanton continued her efforts until she died in 1902.
Keyes always wanted to portray Stanton and was thrilled to have the privilege after Sonja Ferrell, Ottumwa library director, contacted her. Her adoration for women’s suffrage was a significant part that played a key role in channeling Stanton.
Preparing for the presentation was no easy task. It took weeks of research and elocution.
“I am in absolute awe of all of the women,” she said, “for decades… [who fought] for the right to vote. I am saddened and it has brought tears to my eyes to research and in a way get to know the women who worked so hard, who dedicated their life to women’s rights and who did not live to see the passage of the 19th amendment.”
Keyes said Americans should be proud to know that women can vote.
“It is so important to remember that it was only 100 years ago that women obtained the right to vote in this nation and we have to remind ourselves how much further we still have to come,” Keyes said.
But there are issues women still face today, Keyes said. Issues that can’t be ignored, such as disrespect and misogyny in professions.
Mary Stewart, president of League of Women Voters of Ottumwa, agreed. “Women are still fighting for rights in a number of different areas,” she said, “we still don’t have equal pay in the workplace. Women make 80 cents on the dollar of what men make in this country. Women need to control their own reproductive health.”
Fixing the issues, Keyes said, will take time. In the meantime, Americans should continue studying their history so they can work on changing the issues at hand.
“History must be studied all of history,” Keyes said. “It does sometimes frustrate me that I see many more women than men in the audiences when I give my Miss. Cady Stanton presentation — I have been told that the husbands of some women don’t come along because they’re not interested in that. It’s history, it’s our history. We need to be interested in that.”
“Women need to be actively engaged,” Stewart said, “… beware of the issues that face women and you need to be participating in that whether it’s League of Women Voters some other organization or just individually, support and advocate for the things women want and need.”