On May 13, 1957 the first women to have been selected for jury duty in Carroll County stopped for a photo on the front steps of the historic Carroll County Courthouse at Court and Willis Street in Westminster.
According to research by Cathy Baty, the curator of collections for the Historical Society of Carroll County, the “The Democratic Advocate newspaper noted in an article that for the first time “in addressing the jury the attorneys will say ‘ladies and gentlemen of the jury.’”
The women pioneers included, Mary Rineman, Nellie Hare, Maurice R. Leister, Margaret E. Stewart, Dorothy F. Cootes, and Pearl L. Bollinger, Estalla Frick, Marie Powell, Nellie Lantz, Katherine S. Chrysler, and Dorothy Stegman; third row, Maude Seipp, Lynda Hahn, Ruth G. Elderdice, Lillian Chew, Ethel Devilbiss, and Dorothy Card.
Just a few months ago, in January, Westminster Councilwoman Ann Thomas Gilbert gathered many leaders from throughout the county to a meeting to brainstorm how to celebrate the Year of the Woman in Westminster and the many milestones in our local community such as the first women jurors in May 1957.
According to Carroll County Times writer Akira Kyles, a similar effort had also begun in Mount Airy — under the leadership of Mount Airy Councilwoman Pamela Reed and Wendi Peters, special secretary of smart growth for the Maryland Department of Planning.
In Westminster, Gilbert assembled local leaders that included Abby Gruber, Kristen McMasters, Sandra L. Anderson, Stephanie McCown, Jessica Taylor, Heather Mullendore, Melissa Thompson, Kati Townsend, Tasha Cramer, Christina Kuntz, and Val Giovagnoni. For a while, I was the token male in the group. Later I was joined by Steven Jakobovic, the new director of the Historical Society of Carroll County.
It now seems like it was ages ago that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared 2020 as the “Year of the Woman.” Hogan made the announcement on December 12, 2019. He was joined at the event by leaders from the Governor’s Commission on the Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment.
On March 12, three months after the Hogan announced the Year of the Woman, he issued an executive order that because of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we all had to stay home and most of our social, business, and religious activities had been cancelled. Of course this included many events that had been planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Meanwhile, in Carroll County much of our quality of life today is the result of the leadership of women in the community. It is a topic I have visited a number of times over the years. An article published in The Sunday Carroll Eagle in 2008 reported that women being granted the right to vote got mixed reviews in Carroll County after the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920.
For historic context, in 1878 a constitutional amendment to grant women the right to vote was finally introduced by Senator A. A. Sargeant of California. Suffrage supporters called the proposal the “Anthony Amendment,” named for Susan B. Anthony.
The issue remained contentious for four decades. When President Woodrow Wilson delivered his State of the Union message to Congress in December 1916, women in the galleries unfurled a large banner that read, “Mr. President, What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage?”
In October 1920, after women were finally allowed to vote, the local newspapers “carried several articles about women and the election,” according to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Jay Graybeal.
An Oct. 29, 1920 newspaper article carried the headline: “The Republican Meet, A Remarkable Gathering.” “On Tuesday evening the Armory in this city was filled both to its seating and standing capacity with men and women voters of the county to hear the issues of the campaign discussed…
“The first speaker was Mrs. S. K. Herr, of this city. Mrs. Herr received an ovation as she rose to speak and was frequently interrupted by outbursts of applause. She urged the women not only to vote but to study the issues and candidates that they may vote intelligently.”
The article goes on to report: “The Republican women of Westminster district have arranged for (an instruction) room near the polling place in each precinct…
“The voting place in precinct No. 1 will be the old Farmers and Mechanics Bank building. … Voting place in No. 2 is Herr & Babylon's shop... Voting place in No. 3 is Firemen's Building… In precinct No. 4 the voting place is on Liberty street…”
After the election, the Nov. 5 issue of the American Sentinel, carried the headline: “Women Disappointed Them.” “The men and women who were so bitterly opposed to giving women the ballot must have been keenly disappointed on Tuesday. None of the distressing scenes, turbulent conditions, verbal or physical combats predicted have been reported from any voting place in Carroll county, the State of Maryland or anywhere in the country.
“The women did not lose their womanly dignity or sacrifice the respect of the men and we have not heard of any babies neglected or husbands compelled to cook their own meals while their wives were electioneering around the polls.”
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.