Participating Teachers: David Hickey (Lead Teacher), Anna MacDonald (Art), Tim Beirne (History)
Our experience doing this project was invaluable to the young women in the class. Many girls voiced their appreciation for the course to be able to study and think more fully about this important topic. Not only were they all fascinated and inspired in learning about the sacrifices and work of these suffragist icons, but also were similarly moved by investigating the heritage of their female forebears or in simply reflecting on the lives and models of their own mothers and grandmothers, some of whom still cannot vote in their own nations. They also saw relevancy to ongoing contemporary issues of suffrage and are emboldened to exercise their own right to vote, now understanding just how hard fought it was to achieve and also knowing that for some of their peers in the class, they currently will not have that right.
MY OWN PERSONAL STORY –
In my own family, I am a third generation American on both sides from Irish and Italian immigrants. One of the first women possibly able to vote was my great grandmother, Serafina “Sarah” D’Amico. She was born in 1902 in Buenos Aires, Argentina while her Italian parents, Luigi and Anna Lagana, immigrated there to find work. In 1914, her father immigrated to New York to work and save in the back of a cobbler shop while his wife and now 6 children returned to Italy. After seven years, he was able to save enough money to buy a Victorian house in Amityville, NY.
The family came over through Ellis Island in 1921 and the very next year my great great grandfather Luigi died. Anna never learned English and I do not believe was ever naturalized as a citizen. I assume that my great grandmother Sarah was naturalized and may have voted, though I’m not sure if the concept would have seemed normal among immigrant women or if it was seen as a fully acceptable practice. Certainly my grandmother Antoinette, who was born in 1931, voted and like all of my grandparents of their generation who were children of immigrants, were very patriotic and celebrated their rights, and also their responsibilities, as full citizens of the United States. Unfortunately my grandmother is now deceased, but with the many questions I often asked her about her family I now wish I had asked her more details on this legacy of women in our family.