It began with a small group of New York visionaries sipping tea and imagining an America where women shared equal rights with men. They set into motion a national campaign that spanned seven decades and gave way to the eventual securing the right for women to vote.
"In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met for tea and that afternoon they laid out the plans for the first Women's Rights Convention," said Christine Olivieri Donahue, president, Staten Island chapter, NYS Women, Inc. "It has been a long road and we've come such a long long way."
Fourteen local organizations accepted the Staten Island chapter of New York Women's invitation to celebrate the centennial celebration of when American women for the first time, like men, could exercise their right to vote. More than 100 representatives from organizations concerned with issues important to women gathered for the NYS Women-Staten Island chapter's "Legacy Tea."
"We celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage in New York with this tea," said Virginia Allen, NYS Woman-SI History chair during her introductory remarks, "and recognize the contributions women have made to improve our communities and the quality of our lives."
Representatives, some donning banners saying, "Vote Women," and others in period outfits and hats presented a brief overview of their organization's history after parading their group's placard around the perimeter of the room. The Alice Austen House, Delta Sigma Theta Staten Island Alumni, LKL Sorority, Inc. Lambda Chapter, New York State Women, Inc. - Bay Ridge, Richmond County and Staten Island chapters, Richmond County Daughters of the American Revolution, Rossville AME Zion Church-Sandy Ground, Seaview Hospital Women's Auxiliary, Soroptimist International -Staten Island, Staten Island Women's Political Caucus, the Unitarian Church of Staten Island and Association of University Women were the featured procession organizations.
First responders Dr. Kerry Kelly, Chief Medical Officer of NYC Fire Department, and Deputy Inspector Ebony Washington, NYPD, were feted for their outstanding service to the community.
Dr. Kelly oversees a staff of physicians, nurses and civilians in the FDNY Bureau of Health Services. "Eaxh of us are rle models for young women seeking careers," said Dr. Kelly. My father told me that I can do what I want to do. Medical physician officers are able to make changes and I am proud to be able to bring those changes."
Deputy Inspector Washington began her career assigned to patrol at the 122 precinct and she worked through the ranks to achieve her current position. "It is my pleasure to accept this award on behalf of all the first responders who put on a uniform and literally work around the clock to keep our communities safe-and who are members of the community themselves.
"Times have certainly changed and though it has not been easy, women continue to achieve goals."
Historic Richmond town Docant Helen Sauter illustrated the long fight for equality. More than 150 years before the 19th amendment passed Abigail Adams wrote in a March 31,1776 letter urging her husband, John Adams and members of the Continental Congress to "remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to form a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."
A segment of the program included proclamation presentations from local politicians including State Senator Diane Savino and Senators Cusick, Lanza, and Malliatokis. Borough President James Oddo pronounced the day of the event as ' NYS Women-SI Centennial Anniversary of Women Suffrage Day.'
"The women's equality movement was built on the bravery and dedication of thousands of women," said Debi Rose, City Council member as she presented her proclamation. "As we celebrate their victory, I commend all the women who fought, not just for months or years, but for decades, throughout their entire lives for the right to vote.
"I've always been inspired by their courage and my hope is that their legacies will inspire women across this country to dream, achieve and succeed while remaining vigilant in protecting our rights and continuing the fight for equality."
The guest speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, former Speaker of the City Council, applauded the Staten Island chapter of NYS Women for bringing together women to celebrate women's suffrage. The former Speaker applauded the efforts to promote the equity for women. "While we're here to celebrate the centennial of our right to vote, we today do not have a level playing field," said Ms. Mark-Viverito. "We need to continue to develop a more equitable state and city. We have a responsibility to influence and create opportunities for others."
Former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito encouraged women to run for office and hopes that 21 women will be elected to the City Council by 2021 to "address the needs of women."
Robyn Zappola, co-chaired this event with Virginia Allen. Committee members are Margaret Antoniello, Margaret Barry, Carol Belmonte, Jill Bowers, Cammie Brandofino, Elaine Croteau, Rosemarie Dressler, Deborah Feeney, Melinda Gottlieb, Christine Olivieri Donahue, Nancy Sayegh Rooney, and Diane Seridge. Photographer for the day was Carol Belmonte.
The tea concluded with guests raising their tea cups to the suffragettes. Suffragettes left us a great gift - and empowering heritage of pride, momentum and purpose," said Christine Olivieri Donahue. "We celebrate the example of those who came before and the endurance of those who carry on the spirit of these brave American women."