CT Women's History Month

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CT Women's History Month

A number of strong and determined women have shaped the history of Connecticut. Isabella Beecher Hooker was key in the formation of the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association in 1869, an organization that almost 52 years later sat in Connecticut's General Assembly as the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. It took a further 54 years before Connecticut elected a female Governor, but in doing so, Ella Grasso became the first female Governor of any state in the US. Recognizing the contribution that women had made to the fabric of Connecticut's rich history, Greena Clonan, was instrumental in the establishment of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame. It accepted the first inductees in 1994. These are, but a few of the events that have shaped the women's rights movement in Connecticut.

I869 Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association

  • The Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association was formed in 1869. Isabella Beecher Hooker of West Hartford led it. The group attempted to persuade the State Legislature to consider suffrage bills, spoke at legislature hearings, and organized petitions. They argued that women, as citizens, were entitled to the right to vote.
  • Mrs. Hooker moved to West Hartford at age 19, when she married her husband. The Suffrage Association was formed when Mrs. Hooker drafted a bill granting property rights to women. The State legislator later introduced the bill.
  • Her family and the enfranchisement of women were her passions, and she dedicated her life to both. Her work in the Suffrage movement continued at a national and local level until her death in 1907. The generous donations made by Mrs. Hooker enabled the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association to keep afloat throughout the tumultuous first few years.
  • Many gains in local elections, were made by the organization over the first two decades of the twentieth century, and contributed to woman ultimately being given the right to vote in 1920. These gains included women being allowed to vote for school board members and on library issues.

1914 First Suffrage Parade

  • The Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association had become disheartened early in the second decade of the twentieth century, the gains made, while significant, had made little difference, and momentum was starting to slow.
  • The Suffrage Association gained its second-wind when Katharine Houghton Hepburn took over the leadership, along with Caroline Ruutz-Rees, Katharine Ludington, Emily Pierson, and Valeria Hopkins Parker, breathing life back into the fight.
  • On 2 May 1914, the first woman's suffrage parade in Connecticut was held. The event was part of a nationwide set of suffrage demonstrations. Connecticut's parade boasted 2,000 participants riding in automobiles and on floats. Many wore costumes and carried banners. The crowd of men, women, and children was in the thousands.
  • Filmed footage of the event was shown in cinemas across Connecticut and was a huge hit. The parade itself generated interest and fueled a surge in statewide activities. This brought attention to the cause and saw an increase in support for women's suffrage in Connecticut.

Ratification of 19th Amendment in Connecticut

  • September 14, 1920, will forever be marked in Connecticut's history books. On that day, the State Legislature ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In doing so, the long-fought battle by the women of Connecticut to vote was won.
  • The House had passed the 19th Amendment in May 1919, and the Senate in June 1919. It is of note, both the sitting Senators from Connecticut voted against the Amendment. When an Amendment is proposed, the proposed Amendment is sent to the Governor of the State, to submit to the State Legislature for ratification. Governor Holcomb did not submit the Amendment to the Connecticut State Legislature until the following year.
  • The reality was the ratification was largely symbolic as the Amendment had become law the previous month, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the Amendment.
  • The Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association, almost 52 years after its inception, was in attendance at the State General Assembly, when it ratified the 19th Amendment, giving all American women the right to vote.
  • With the war won, the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association proudly voted to dissolve the Association the next year.

1974 First Female Governor of Connecticut

  • The war for the right to vote may have been won in 1920, but it took the citizens of Connecticut a further 54 years before they elected the first female Governor of the state. Ella Grasso became the first woman to become Governor of any US state when she won the Governorship of Connecticut in 1974.
  • Mrs. Grasso was elected Governor of Connecticut on 5 November 1974, with a 200,000 vote majority. Born the year before women were given the right to vote, Mrs. Grasso devoted her adult life to government service. She was appointed a state legislator in 1952 and served as the Secretary of State for three terms from 1958.
  • Elected to the House in 1970, she won re-election in 1972 before becoming the Governor of Connecticut in 1974. A landslide victory saw her reelected in 1978. Unfortunately, Mrs. Grasso was unable to complete her second term. Illness saw her resign as Governor on New Year's Eve 1980. She died just over a month later.

1994 Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame

  • The Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame was opened in 1994.
  • Greena Clonan, the Managing Director of the Connecticut Forum, discovered when organizing the 1993 event, that despite there being many groundbreaking women in Connecticut's history, no organization or venue celebrated them. Ms. Clonan decided this was unacceptable, and she and her team set about rectifying the situation.
  • The team partnered with The Hartford College for Women, and with many community volunteers research into the women who had contributed to Connecticut's history began. In September 1993, the first steering committee of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame was formed.
  • On 9 May 1994, the first inductees into the Hall were celebrated. The 46 inductions included 38 posthumous inductions.
  • Among the 46 inductees were, Betti Tianti, the first female Commissioner of Labor in Connecticut, Alice Hamilton, who fought to ensure workers were not exposed to toxic substances, Maria Sachez, the first Hispanic elected to the State Legislature, and Prudence Crandall, who was run out of town for educating "women of color" some years before.
  • The event was a resounding success. All the major networks and newspapers covered it. The Hall housed initially at Hartford College, before moving to its current home at the Southern Connecticut State University in 2008.