Local author discusses Long Island suffragists with Floral Park Historical Society

Local author discusses Long Island suffragists with Floral Park Historical Society
Antonia Petrash, author of "Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement," spoke to the Floral Park Historical Society on Sunday.  (Photo courtesy of the Floral Park Historical Society)

In last November’s election, voters across New York received a sticker featuring Rosalie Gardiner Jones, a Long Island suffragist who led a march to Albany in 1912, to honor 100 years of women’s right to vote in the state.

Jones, from Cold Spring Harbor, was just one of many Long Island suffragists Antonia Petrash discussed with the Floral Park Historical Society on Sunday.

Petrash, the author of “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement,” noted the hard work and harsh conditions Jones and others faced in their crusade for suffrage.

Petrash pointed out there were no North Face jackets or Ugg boots for Jones and other women during the December march.

Petrash was previously the director of the Glen Cove Public Library. She is currently retired and lives with her husband and family in Glen Cove. Petrash has written other books on women’s history, including “More than Petticoats: Remarkable New York Women,” and “More than Petticoats: Remarkable Connecticut Women.”

Antonia Petrash is the author of several woman’s history books, including “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement.”
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

New York granted women the right to vote in 1917, two years before the right was given to women across the country.

While New York is commonly perceived as a more progressive state, Petrash said, it was not one of the first to grant women the right to vote.

By 1900 five states granted women the right to vote, and they were all out West, Petrash said.

In addition to Jones, known as “General Jones,” Petrash discussed other suffragists from Long Island. Many were wealthy like Jones, whose family land became Jones Beach.

Katherine Duer Mackay, of Roslyn, lived at the Long Island mansion Harbor Hill. In addition to Mackay’s work with the movement, she was the first woman elected to the Roslyn school board.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, who married into money, built one of her homes, Beacon Towers in Sands Point, to hold suffrage events.

Petrash said one reason voter apathy may be prevalent is that current generations do not understand the long, hard struggle it took for women to get the right to vote.

Petrash asked the audience if they knew if their grandmothers were involved in the suffrage movement – nobody knew.

Petrash said she, too, never thought to ask her grandmother.

Petrash quoted Susan B. Anthony, who in 1894 said when “when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United Sates, everybody will think it was always so.”

“Just exactly as many young people believe that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers,” Anthony said. “They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”

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