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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Women's Suffrage in Roslyn

As we continue to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the right for women to vote, Myrna Sloam, former archivist at The Bryant Library, has provided further information on Katherine Mackay's efforts to bring the suffrage movement to the people of Roslyn.

Suffragist Banner from The Local History Collection

In 1908 Katherine Mackay became the founder of the Equal Franchise Society. Though most of her efforts towards winning the vote for women would take place within her wealthy circles in New York City, she also brought this campaign to Roslyn. In 1908 she brought Harriot Stanton Blatch and Carrie Chapman Catt, two of the most well-known women in the suffrage movement, to speak in Roslyn. Prefaced with the headline: “Mrs. Mackay for Suffrage. Roslyn Lady Bountiful Takes Second Step in Her Campaign,” a notice in the September 16, 1908 Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper stated that:

“Mrs. Clarence H. Mackay is to open a campaign for woman suffrage on Friday afternoon, when Mrs. Harriett [Harriot] Stanton Blatch of Manhattan, president of the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, is to address the school children who are to compete for the prizes offered by Mrs. Mackay for the compositions on “The Need and Right of Woman Suffrage. There will be a number of Mrs. Mackay’s society friends at the meeting which is to be held at the schoolhouse.”

A review of the lecture appeared in the September 19, 1908 The New York Times, along with the following quote from Katherine: “I have been watching this thing for a long time, and this is only the beginning. It’s coming, as sure as fate.” The September meeting was then followed in October 1908 by a lecture by Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the International Woman’s Suffrage Association, as reported in the October 31, 1908 Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper.

In a followup news report of Roslyn interest, The New York Times of May 4, 1909 states that

“The two $25 prizes which Mrs. Clarence Mackay offered last summer for the best essays on the need of woman suffrage in America were awarded to-day by the donor. Newell H. Grace, 17 years old, received the prize for the best high school essay, and Florence Thomas, 12 years old, for the best paper written by an eight grade pupil….”

In 1911, citing lack of time, Katherine Mackay resigned from both the Roslyn School Board and as President of the Equal Franchise Society. Though she was not to play an active role going forward, her prediction would prove correct— it was coming! Women won the right to vote in New York State in 1917, and the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed on June 4, 1919. The Amendment was ratified by the needed number of states on August 18, 1920, and then certified on August 26, 1920.


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