Posted tagged ‘Village of Pittsford NY’

Pittsford Pays Tribute to the Political Equality Club

October 31, 2020

In 1902, fourteen women from Pittsford, New York, banded together to form the Pittsford Political Equality Club. It was a long time coming, as women in nearby Rochester had organized their own club as early as the mid-1880s. Gertrude Wilmarth Lash first suggested a Pittsford club to her fellow Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) members in September 1901. The discussion was tabled and it was one year later, September 6, 1902, that the Political Equality Club (PEC) was organized in Pittsford.

Here is a little back story. Early in 2020 before the pandemic struck, several members of the Pittsford Town Board collected a group of interested parties from the Village of Pittsford, Historic Pittsford, the recreation department, the library and the Town & Village Historian’s office. Their goal was to find a way to commemorate the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. That’s where the Town & Village Historian’s office came in.

The Historian’s office was in the process of moving from the Town Hall to the recently-remodeled Spiegel Community Center (SCC) around the corner. The Town crew had brought 14 file cabinets and about 100 boxes to the SCC at the beginning of the move. Many of them had been donated to the office by former Pittsford Town Supervisor Paul Malone Spiegel (yes, the guy after whom the building was named) and the boxes had immediately been sent to storage until we moved to the larger space. Pittsford Town & Village Historian Audrey Maxfield Johnson and I spent many hours combing through the boxes, the contents of which we had never seen before.

As we organized the materials, I discovered a folder marked “Political Equality Club”. It contained a handwritten journal from 1902 which I soon realized was the minutes book for the first year of the organization. This exciting discovery was the pivot for the 19th Amendment centennial celebration.

I was amazed to see the names of several women with whom I was quite familiar. Mary Helen Shepard Light, wife of my Civil War soldier Major Harvey E. Light, was the first president of the PEC. Mary Jane Austin Agate was secretary. In a stroke of good fortune, the fourth-grade teacher I work with each year had her students researching the Agate family, their malt business, their beautiful brick home (now known as The Canal Lamp Inn) and the kids had already briefly touched on Mary Jane’s interest in the suffragist cause. Not only was the journal a gold mine of information for the centennial project, but the students were also able to use it in their class project, a website all about the Agates (https://agatezornowhouse.wixsite.com/mysite).

It was also exciting to learn that Susan B. Anthony and her sister, Mary Anthony, visited Pittsford multiple times to support the PEC.

My job for the centennial project was to pull the names of the women mentioned in the journal and research their lives. Others on the committee worked to create self-guided walking and cemetery tours. Another worked with the printer to have the most striking purple signs created to be placed at the fourteen walking tour sites. The library opened up two display cases to highlight the event. The recreation department team planned fireworks. Garden flags were custom-made for the ten women buried at Pittsford Cemetery. This was very much a collaborative effort and one in which I was honored to be a part.

The Pittsford 19th Amendment Centennial project, with its fireworks, tours and signs, took place in August and September 2020.

I look forward to illuminating the ladies of the PEC in future installments.

New Book about Pittsford, New York

June 5, 2012

I’m pleased to announce that Pittsford Town and Village Historian Audrey Johnson and I are working on an exciting new collaboration.  Pittsford, will be published by Arcadia Publishing Company in 2013 as part of their “Images of America” series. 

However, we need your assistance!  Do you have vintage photographs pertaining to Pittsford’s people, places, businesses and buildings?  Would you like to help preserve Pittsford’s fascinating history?  We are looking for pre-1950s photographs showing what life was like in the early days of Pittsford, New York.  The importance of family collections cannot be overemphasized. Vintage photographs become increasingly fragile and by scanning and reproducing them in a book, they become available for all to see.

If you have photos to share, please contact Vicki Profitt at vprofitt@rochester.rr.com by June 30, 2012.  We can make arrangements to scan in your photos at your convenience.   

Arcadia Publishing has printed over 7,500 books about small towns and cities throughout the United States.  Additional information about Arcadia Publishing can be found on their website, www.arcadiapublishing.com.


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