We hope to become your new source of news, information and features about the people and places in the greater Olney area,
Centennial Celebration: The U.S. Congress ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution on Aug. 18, 1920. It reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
by Audrey Partington
Special to The Greater Olney News
In the decades following the Civil War, members of the Sandy Spring Quaker community began organizing to secure the right to vote for American women.
They were among the three generations of women who participated in the suffrage movement, which began with the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848.
Their efforts will be recognized with a historic marker to be placed at Sandy Spring Museum this year as part of the centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
“The suffrage marker to be placed at the Sandy Spring Museum is one of 250 markers on the National Votes for Women Trail, and will be one of approximately 15 Maryland sites to be identified this year as significant to the suffrage movement,” said Diana Bailey, executive director of the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center.
Sandy Spring suffragists
With their belief in the equality of all human beings and involvement in the abolition of slavery, it is not surprising that Sandy Spring Quakers were active in the women’s suffrage struggle.
In 1889, Caroline Hallowell Miller organized a dozen of her neighbors into a women’s suffrage association in Sandy Spring. The group presented pro-suffrage lectures at the Lyceum on the grounds of Sandy Spring Friends Quaker Meeting House.
Several years later, the group merged with the Baltimore City Suffrage Association to form the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association.
Miller served as president of the state group, which became a chapter of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association.
An educator, like her father, Benjamin Hallowell, first president of the University of Maryland, Hallowell was raised in Alexandria, Va., where she saw the horrors of slavery and the mistreatment of lower-class women and children.
Miller became acquainted with Susan B. Anthony, also a Quaker, who was leading an effort on the national level to enfranchise women.
In 1883, Anthony invited Miller to speak at the National Women’s Suffrage Convention in Washington, D.C. In her remarks, Miller said, “Man would rise to a higher plane when he acknowledges equal rights for women before the law.”
Other Sandy Spring Quaker women who joined Miller’s suffrage advocacy included a sister-in-law, Sarah Thomas Miller, and Sarah’s daughter, Rebecca Thomas Miller, who became active in the movement on both the state and national level.
Mary Bentley Thomas, another Sandy Spring Quaker, was elected president of the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association in 1894 and served for the next decade. Under her leadership, the association set up chapters throughout the state, including one in Montgomery County, led by her sister-in-law, Sarah T. Miller.
Efforts by African-American women like Estelle Hall Young to join forces with white suffragists to establish a branch of the Baltimore-based Progressive Suffrage Club in Montgomery County failed.
At that time, the movement was largely segregated and black women were working within their own clubs to enfranchise African-American men and women.
In spite of the Quakers’ commitment to social justice, there is no evidence of a collaboration on the suffrage movement in Sandy Spring.
“While we honor the work of the Sandy Spring Quaker suffragists, their advocacy could not bring true universal suffrage, without including their African-American neighbors,” said Allison Weiss, director of Sandy Spring Museum.
In 1906, the national suffrage convention was held in Baltimore. To boost attendance, Thomas placed advertisements in local papers that read, “If you are indifferent, come and be convinced. What we ask is not revolutionary or untried, but the reasonable and just demand of every living being under a democratic form of government.”
That same year, Thomas testified before committees of both houses of Congress in favor a constitutional amendment to enfranchise American women.
Her personal scrapbook, housed in the Sandy Spring Museum (and available online), includes a letter from Susan B. Anthony, press clippings and some of her original stories that were published in newspapers.
A prolific writer, Thomas contributed to the Maryland chapter of the six-volume “History of Woman Suffrage,” compiled and edited by Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida Husted Harper.
Thomas was the granddaughter of Caleb Bentley, first postmaster of Brookeville, who harbored President James Madison when Washington, D.C., was burned by the British in 1814.
Sandy Spring Museum is situated on land donated to the museum in 1994 by the Bentley family.
Thomas’ husband, Edward Porter Thomas, founder of the Belmont Dairy in Washington, D.C., also had ancestral ties to Brookeville’s early Quaker settlers. Their daughter, Edith Thomas Farquhar, was one of the few women to be made a partner in a family business at that time.
She continued her mother’s suffrage work, carrying the Maryland flag at the 1913 Suffrage March in Washington, D. C., on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
Protests outside the White House, which continued throughout World War I, led to arrests, hunger strikes and forced feeding of women behind bars.
Their efforts, and those of the generations of suffragists who came before them, led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, on Aug. 18, 1920.
About the marker
The marker, which officially places Sandy Spring on the National Votes for Women Trail, was awarded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, a private grant-making foundation based in Syracuse, N.Y., through its National Women’s Suffrage Marker Grant Program.
The Maryland Women’s Heritage Center facilitated the grant application process, in partnership with the National Collaborative of Women’s History sites.
The marker will read: “Votes for Women: Caroline Hallowell Miller and Mary Bentley Thomas led Sandy Spring and Maryland campaigns for women’s right to vote from 1883-1915.”
Sandy Spring Museum is working with the Montgomery County Commission for Women, Suffrage 2020 and the Daughters of the American Revolution to plan a ceremony for the placement of the marker on the museum’s grounds, within social distancing guidelines.
Virtual event to mark 100th anniversary
The Montgomery County Commission for Women will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States, in a virtual program at 7 p.m. Aug. 19.
In collaboration with many community partners and sponsors, the event will feature special guest Robyn Muncy, author and guest curator of the National Archives exhibit, “Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” and professor of history at the University of Maryland.
Muncy will be joined by Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College.
The virtual event is targeted to all ages. All members of the public are invited to tune in to learn more about suffrage efforts and the role of civic activists in enlisting women’s participation in voting. Learn more at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/CFW/suffrage/index.html.
To view a letter from Susan B. Anthony in the Mary B. Thomas scrapbook at Sandy Spring Museum, go to: https://collections.digitalmaryland.org/digital/collection/p17340coll20/id/35675/rec/2.
An image of Caroline H. Miller is available at https://www.loc.gov/item/rbcmiller001744. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
The Greater Olney News reaches more than 20,000 homes and businesses through the U.S. Postal Service and hundreds more are dropped at businesses and popular gathering spots.
For a media kit, deadlines, rates and other advertising information, call 240-454-5648.