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‘The Suffragette’ portrays women’s historic battle to vote

Members friends Dundee Township Historical Society offered dramatic portrayal Dundee Township Library story generations women who fought for right vote.|

Members and friends of the Dundee Township Historical Society offered a dramatic portrayal at the Dundee Township Library of the story of generations of women who fought for the right to vote.| photos by Romi Herron-For Sun-Times Media

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The Dundee Township Historical Society will participate in Country Corners Holiday Bazaar from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 35w859 Burr Oak Lane, West Dundee. The society will offer autographed copies of “Santa’s Village” by author Phillip Wenz as well as the Dundee History book, local postcards, note cards, “Victorian” cutouts and other items. Local crafters will also offer their wares. Follow signs on Sleepy Hollow Road north of Route 72. There is no entry fee. For more information call the museum at 847-428-6996.

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Updated: December 19, 2012 11:59AM

After Jabez Etienne portrayed Sojourner Truth during the recent Dundee Township Historical Society’s “The Suffragette,” she said she hopes it evoked the value of perseverance.

The event, a narrative portrayal given by members and friends of the Dundee Township Historical Society at the Dundee Township Library, focused on the story of generations of women who fought for the right to vote. Those who pioneered the movement, which continued for more than 70 years, did not live to see their victory, yet they paved the way for American women, according to Marge Edwards, president of the Dundee Township Historical Society and the event’s coordinator.

“Grace Wilbur Trout and Catherine Waugh McCulloch are from Illinois, and they were instrumental in getting the vote,” said Edwards, dressed in period clothing for her role as commentator during the event. “(Trout and McCullough) convinced members of the General Assembly to pass the bill (for women to vote).”

Signed into law by Governor Edward F. Dunne in June of 1913, the vote needed three-fourths majority for ratification, Edwards explained.

“Harry Burn was 24 years old and was opposed, and he had a red rose on his lapel — the symbol for being opposed,” Edwards said. “But he had gotten a letter from his mother and she told him to be a good boy and (support the movement).”

So, upon the advice of his mother, the senator from Tennessee cast the deciding vote in favor of ratification of the 19th Amendment, said Edwards, who also wrote the script for the event and choreographed the dramatic elements as well.

During the early segments of the group’s presentation, the women were dressed in dark clothing, and later they retreated to the back of the room, where they removed the dark colors to reveal white period costumes, each wearing a yellow sash to signify their right to vote. As they walked forward, the lights gradually brightened, to symbolize a promising movement, as the women carried the American Flag above their heads in procession.

A barbershop quartet with members Mike Buhrmann. Dane Granholm, Dave McDunnough and Jeff Dulmadge sang “Put Me Upon An Island.”

But to Edwards, one of the most moving parts of the program was the story of Sojourner Truth.

“It’s just very touching,” said Edwards, explaining after the program that Truth was an abolitionist and former slave whose given name was Isabella Baumfree. Her speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” was selected by Edwards and read by Etienne, a Pingree Grove resident.

“I was amazed as everyone else in the room,” said Etienne about the dramatic effect of the speech, which describes Truth’s life in slavery and experiences that included losing her children when they were sold.

Etienne, who is a school secretary for District 303, said she lived in Guyana, South America before moving to the U.S. twelve years ago. She said was looking forward to voting in the Nov. 6 election. “It is a right that we (women) fought for, and I am so proud to be part of this.”

The event drew more than two dozen guests and also featured a display of relevant books pertaining to the suffrage movement, and an historic ballot box used in the early 1900s in Dundee Township.

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