The costumed commemoration features a museum exhibition, actor portrayals and a symbolic march to the Ontario County Courthouse.
CANANDAIGUA — A local trial that reverberated across the nation 144 years ago will be commemorated this Saturday.
Members of the Ontario County Historical Society and 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will team up June 17 to host a multiple-venue experience — the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Event — on the 144th anniversary of the start of Anthony’s historic trial in 1873.
The evening launches with a 7 p.m. reception at the Ontario County Historical Society, which will spotlight the exhibit “Votes for Women: the Suffrage Movement in Ontario County.”
At 7:45 p.m., attendees, who are encouraged to dress in period attire, will make a symbolic march to the steps of the Ontario County Courthouse, joined by sign-holding suffragists, also in period attire.
Upon arrival at the courthouse, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass will share first-hand perspectives through portrayals by Barbara Blaisdell and David Anderson at 8 p.m.
The Canandaigua Academy Women’s Chorale will perform “Women’s Battle Song,” followed by a formal proclamation by the city and a presentation by Susan B. Anthony House Executive Director Deborah Hughes.
Museum Educator Preston Pierce will recount trial highlights, and Farmington Town Historian Donna Hill-Herendeen will zero in on the connection between Farmington Quakers and the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
The evening will culminate with a Quaker reflection and candle-lighting ceremony on the courthouse steps.
Ontario County Historical Society Executive Director Edward Varno sees the June 17 event as a great chance to spotlight the “Votes for Women: The Suffrage Movement in Ontario County” exhibit, prepared by museum Curator Wilma Townsend.
The presentation is the result of a year-long compilation of artifacts from historians throughout Ontario County.
Their research was funded by a $1,500 Humanities Vision Grant issued by Humanities New York — money which paid for area municipal historians to gather and discuss their search techniques and findings with a true humanities scholar, Varno said. The experience will pay off in the future as town, village and city historians continue to delve into local history, he said.
The new museum exhibit boasts some 60 artifacts that include textiles, pamphlets, tins, books and pictures, enhanced by wall-mounted graphics that move viewers along a timeline.
“If grandparents or parents want to bring their kids and show them how women gained rights, this is a really good exhibit,” said Varno. “I think the genius of Wilma is she utilized clothing as an indicator of power.”
Townsend wrote and designed the whole exhibit, and arranged the acquisition of all the artifacts, Varno said.
Local business leaders strongly supported the exhibit through corporate sponsorships, he added.
“These exhibits don’t happen for free,” Varno said. “The cost was largely borne by the museum, our membership, and well over 100 local business leaders, many of them women, who stepped up to help underwrite the project.”
At the helm of the June 17 Legacy Event is former City Council member and Wood Library employee Maria Bucci, who said she “loves pulling events together.”
Bucci sees this anniversary as a great opportunity to raise awareness about all the local and regional activity that led up to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
“There are a lot of new people in the region,” she said. “It seemed like a good time to highlight the event that took place right here in our own community.”
The event is free, and guests are encouraged to come in period attire — but it’s not required, Bucci said. They should, however, bring blankets and chairs for the outdoor portion of the evening. Parking can be found behind the courthouse in the county lot, and behind the Ontario County Historical Society, she said.
“If you’re into history, into the women’s suffrage movement and women’s rights, it’s a fun thing,” said Bucci, who will be dressed to the nines in period attire, and is presently in search of “the perfect hat.”
A costume-making party will be held at Wood Library on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. for people who want advice and help putting something together, she said.
“There is quite a legacy,” she said. “We’re encouraging families and young people to come. Many of those young people voted for the first time last year, and I really do think they value that right.”
Bucci firmly emphasized the focus of the observance.
“We don’t want this to be a political event,” she said. “We want to focus on the history and the legacy.”
Also on June 17 and 18, from noon to 4 p.m., the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will be open to visitors. The Meetinghouse, which is closed and under restoration at the corner of Sheldon Road and County Road 8 in Farmington, will feature displays detailing its history of activism and support for Seneca land rights, the abolition of slavery, women’s equality and suffrage. Guests will stand where Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and other great social reformers once spoke. Refreshments will be served, and a self-guided driving tour of local historic sites provided.
For more information, find Ontario County Historical Society on Facebook and visit the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Event page.
If you go
WHAT Susan B. Anthony Legacy Event
WHEN Saturday, June 17, 7 to 9 p.m.
WHERE Ontario County Historical Society, 55 N. Main St., proceeding to Ontario County Courthouse, 27 N. Main St., Canandaigua
INFO Find Ontario County Historical Society on Facebook and visit the Susan B. Anthony Legacy Event page. To be a suffrage protester, call 585-394-4975.
Did you know?
In November 1873, Susan B. Anthony registered to vote and cast a vote in an election in Rochester. For this act, she was charged with a federal crime for voting without the legal right to do so as “a person of the female sex.” On June 17, 1873, Anthony’s trial began at the Ontario County Courthouse in Canandaigua, where she was found guilty a few short days later.
Anthony spent the next 50 or more years of her life fighting for the right to vote. She worked tirelessly, giving speeches, petitioning Congress and state legislatures, and publishing a feminist newspaper. Eleven years after her death in 1906, her cause succeeded in New York state in 1917, and nationally on Aug. 18, 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.