BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In honor of Women’s History Month, we visited the Buffalo History Museum to learn more about some of the local influential women who helped shape history.
“I think people always think of history being so far removed from us, but my own grandmother was born without the right to vote in 1910,” Melissa Brown, the Executive Director of the Buffalo History Museum, told us on Wake Up. “Really women were working over a period of several decades to fight for the right to vote.”
According to Brown, New York State was ahead of the curve of passing the right for women to vote in 1917, before the right was passed federally in 1920.
Being just under two hours away from Seneca Falls, where the first women’s rights convention took place, Buffalo also took a stand for Women’s Suffrage.
The museum holds many artifacts from the Women’s Suffrage movement that help tell the stories of women who fought for equality, including “Vote for Women” sashes and pins that date back to around the 1913 Women’s March in Buffalo, to paintings and posters by Evelyn Rumsey Cary, who helped bring awareness of women’s right to vote.
“I think we all become familiar with the national narrative, but when you can dive into the local stories and really understand the individuals who were pivotal in pioneering these efforts it becomes super compelling and you can almost relate to these stories,” said Brown.
Throughout the morning, Brown also shared with us a series of stories of women who influenced history, and their stories.
“Arguably she is not only the most famous woman from Buffalo, I would argue she is one of the most famous people from Buffalo,” said Brown shared about Mary Talbert.
Talbert was an international human rights leader, activist, and suffragist, who was the first African American woman to win NAACP’s Spingarn Award, which is showcased in the Buffalo History Museum.
Hear about Mary Talbert’s, story below:
Brown also shared, Eva Noles’ story, the first African American nurse trained here in Buffalo in 1936, who eventually became the Director of Nursing at Roswell Park.
“She’s really someone to really look at in terms of fighting through those issues and preserving and raising an example for everyone around her,” said Brown.
Hear more about Noles in the video below:
Winnifred Stanley, was the first female District Attorney of Buffalo at 28-years-old, who fought for women’s rights during her time as a Congresswoman for New York. Hear more about her story, and her fight for Equal pay, in the video below:
Mary Elizabeth Johnson Lord, who was the daughter of Buffalo’s first mayor, started the SPCA.
“She was an animal rights activist at a time where animals were really used mostly for function and for work and were treated quite poorly,” said Brown.
There’s a stained glass window of her and her dog, Grandfather Smallwood, in the Buffalo History Museum’s library. Hear more about her story in the video below:
While we share the stories of women who helped empower others in the past, women continue to make history today. In the museum’s ‘Say their Names: Honor their Legacies’ exhibit that was created by the Uncrowned Queens Institute of Buffalo, honors African American community elders, including women community elders’ stories that have made an impact here in Buffalo today.
One woman who is honored in the exhibit, is Dr. Eva Doyle, a local columnist and writer of more than 20 books, who taught in the Buffalo Public Schools for more than 30 years. She has been instrumental in bringing awareness of Black History by creating an African American history curriculum for her students. Hear more about her story in the video below:
If you would like to visit the Buffalo History Musuem to learn more about these stories and more, click here to visit their website.
Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here .
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