A work by quilt artist Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry recognizes women who were first — from Amelia Earhart to Jeannette Rankin to Oprah Winfrey to Margaret Chase Smith to Sandra Day O'Connor to Hillary Clinton to Maura Healey.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee is celebrating more than 200 women of note — including 52 who made have made a positive impact on Adams.
Committee unveiled the "First Ladies Quilt" and Wall of Recognition at Town Hall on Friday evening with small reception.
"I have been asked who the winner of this contest is by many people and the true answer is the winner is every single person in this community who has benefited from everything these women have done," Administrative Assistant Deb Dunlap, who spearheaded the initiative, said. "They reflect back to the community values, the service, and support, and strengthen what defines a community as its best self."
The town plans to hold a celebration in 2020 marking Susan B. Anthony's 200th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. The committee was formed a few years ago to steer this process and set a goal of $300,000 to fund the celebration and erect a statue to the civil and voting rights activist who was born on East Road.
It has scheduled smaller events throughout its existence to raise funds and to celebrate Adams' native daughter and voting rights activist. This was one of these events.
Dunlap read through some of the things area women were nominated for that included volunteering, serving on town committees, running local town events, helping out at the polls, various charitable causes, and providing support to other residents.
Names included town employees, church volunteers, town officials, business leaders, teachers, and lifelong residents who made their mark on Adams.
Above the wall of names, there were five pictures: Two on each side of a picture of Susan B Anthony, for whom Dunlap provided special commemoration.
Theresa Marby, who died last year and had worked with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, was recognized beside a picture of state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who passed in 2017.
On the other side of Anthony was Margaret Irish Anthony, the founder of Susan B. Anthony Days. She was also a member of the VFW Auxiliary.
Alongside Anthony was her daughter, Lucy Anthony Czaja, a direct descendant of the Anthony family. Czaja is on the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace and Museum board of directors and volunteers to help maintain the museum garden. She worked as a nurse and continues to volunteer in town.
Dunlap then read the entire list of names.
"They do not do it for the accolades or the prestige they do it to make his community a better place for everyone," she said. "There are so many areas in the community that has seen a direct impact from these women and together they stitch together an uplifting tapestry of support and positive change."
Anthony museum Director Cassandra Peltier pointed to the quilt, which commemorates 162 prominent American women who were first in their fields. The quilt was created by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, a Washington-based quilt artist, and will be on display throughout the country.
Adams is the first stop.
"Through history, women have not been very present in written narratives and this is one of the reasons why we turn to mediums like quilts and clothing," Peltier said. "Women put their hearts and souls into something that can last longer than their voices that were often silenced and I think this is a fitting testament to both suffrage in the women's textile work.
Peltier said like many girls of the time, Susan B. Anthony worked away at embroidery and quilting projects and was pretty good at it.
She said in a time when women were stifled these skills were imperative and could "make or break" a women’s marriage prospects.
"At a time when women were expected to be demure and soft-spoken, happily content with domestic duties in the home quilting allowed women to insert individuality and in some cases level of public acknowledgment," she said. "When they could not easily pass valuable belongings to their daughters they could pass down quilts."
She said the quilts often contained symbols and messages.
Peltier said sewing circles were also a safe place for women to meet and converse. She said, "what happened in the sewing circle stayed in the sewing circle."
She said these circles were important to the suffrage movement and women actually used quilting and other textile tradition to help in the battle for equality.
"During the later suffrage movement women sort of turned that tradition on its head," she said. "They used the sewing techniques that were used to keep a house clothed and keep them stocked with linens to create banners ... they could carry in parades and rallies."
Members of the committee went over some upcoming events and updated the dozens who attended on the the group’s progress.
Member William Kolis said they are in striking distance of the $300,000 and member Eugene Michalenko said Anthony devoted her life to ideals present in the constitution and frameworks of our democracy.
He said the least Adams could do is make 2020 a special year.
"Susan B Anthony was a believer in the greatness of the American ideals," he said. "She was not a cynic and her work made us better humans. For that alone she deserves a statue, parade, and fireworks."
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