JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Nearly 100 years to the day after women earned the right to vote in the United States, a local woman with ties to the suffrage movement is urging young people not to take their rights for granted.
Dr. Johnetta Cole grew up knowing well the importance of the vote, as the great granddaughter of A.L. Lewis. He worked tirelessly to become the first Black millionaire in Florida. Cole has a stern message to share having a wealth of knowledge of the struggles of suffragists, women who persevered leading us all to this year’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
“The connection between your life and voting is as intimate as any connection can be,” Cole said. “So get fully woke young folk and start adulting as you would say. I beg of you to vote.”
Cole declared that while it’s a time for celebration it’s also time to reflect on what has yet to be accomplished for women. Before looking ahead, let’s take a look back to the early 1900s in Jacksonville with the President of the Florida Historical Society, Emily Lisska.
“Susan B. Anthony made a plea to Katherine Eagan. She said, you know Florida is the only state in the union that has failed to step up for women,” Lisska said. “This is 1902 when this is told to Katherine Eagan. Florida needs to do something for the cause.”
Countless Jacksonville women leaped into the fight -- working for the passage of the 19th Amendment, including May Mann Jennings, Helen Hunt and a woman no one dared to call elderly, Mary Nolan.
“She was 73 years old, a little gray-haired lady out of Springfield,” Lisska said. “A very unlikely candidate to walk the picket lines in Washington, D.C.”
Nolan was often described as the oldest active suffragist on the picket lines with the National Woman’s Party. She was sent to prison five times for her activism while protesting for women’s right to vote.
“I'm sure there's a Susan B. Anthony in all of us,” said Wanda Bosworth, former president of the Republican Women’s Club.
Dressed in period garb outside of a poling site with a ballot in hand, Bosworth does what she has for decades: encouraging and helping women to register to vote.
“Women need to understand this is not something that we've always just had the opportunity to do,” Bosworth said.
An organized effort by suffragists began in 1848. In Seneca Falls, New York, they gathered for the first women’s rights convention. And for the next 72 years, protests, marches, arrests and sheer force led to women being granted their right to the ballot.
“Yes, Susan B. Anthony will be remembered,” Cole said. “Yes Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be remembered. Let us also remember Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell. Let us remember that there were African American women who once pushed outside of the suffragette movement and formed their own suffragette movement. Happy Anniversary to all of us who are women folk and men folk. Now let's get to work!”
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing all American women the right to vote.