Cassandra Peltier as Alva Belmont Vanderbilt, a prominent figure in the suffrage movement.
ADAMS, Mass. — About 75 people filled The Manor on Saturday afternoon for the kickoff event of a yearlong celebration of Susan B. Anthony and the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
The event at St. John Paul II Parish's Italianate mansion was organized by the Adams Suffrage Centennial Celebration Committee. The committee serves as an advisory committee to the Board of Selectmen.
Anthony was born in Adams and was a social reformer best known for spearheading the women's suffrage movement. She was also involved in the anti-slavery movement, collecting signatures for petitions as a teen, the temperance (prohibition of alcohol) movement, and women's financial rights.
Retired school teacher Mary Whitman, committee member and host for the day, shared why Anthony's work was so important.
"Without her hard work women might not have had a say in the building of this country," she stated. "She's emboldened other women throughout history."
One of the main goals of the committee when it was appointed by the town of Adams was commissioning a sculpture of Anthony to be permanently displayed on the opposite end of Park Street from the William McKinley statue that was unveiled in 1903.
Committee member Pam St. John talked about the fundraising required to meet the goal of more than $300,000.
"We started with a budget of zero and as of today it stands at $204,000, which is a miracle," St. John said. They had three Victorian teas in period dress at local businesses which were all sold out. "We've received a great deal of community support, from $50,000 to $5, everything is appreciated."
Gov. Charlie Baker has earmarked $50,000 toward the fundraising goal in his FY 2020 budget as part of the Massachusetts Marketing Partnership.
"It's great news but it's not a sure thing as the funding is not 100 percent secure yet," cautioned Peter Tomyl, committee member and Mohawk Trail Association president.
The process of finding an artist to sculpt the Anthony statue was explained by the chairman of the statue subcommittee and Adams native Bill Kolis.
"The process started 2 1/2 years ago by issuing a request for proposal to find an artist to craft the bronze sculpture," he said. "We received 10-12 responses from across the country and one from overseas and we narrowed it down to a guy named Brian Hanlon. He lobbied hard for it."
Kolis said Hanlon felt his experience sculpting a Harriet Tubman statue for the Equal Rights Cultural Heritage Center lends itself to the Susan B. Anthony work.
Hanlon is a classically trained and world renowned sculptor from New Jersey who has hundreds of pieces on display worldwide. His works include everything from a statue of Yankee Yogi Berra for the Berra Museum to a work of Pope John Paul II. Hanlon is also the official sculptor for the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame in Springfield.
Although the sculpture will be created at Hanlon's studio in New Jersey, the original idea came from Adams resident and local artist George LaMaitre.
"George gave me a maquette (a small model of a sculpture) of Anthony holding the Declaration of Women's Rights looking down at a younger self reading a book," Kolis said. "We are honoring her work as an adult and as a child."
The unveiling of the statue will take place on the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote during a weekend long celebration held in Adams next summer.
Cassandra Peltier, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, spoke of some of the events that will highlight the yearlong celebration.
"We will have a period dress costume party fundraiser in Williamstown at the First Congregational Church on Oct. 19, 'Crusin' With Susan' is a bike-themed event next May, and it all culminates with the parade and festival next August," Peltier said. She also revealed her motivation for getting involved with the museum and the committee as a whole. "Susan B. Anthony inspires me to break barriers since there are still so many when it comes to equal pay and equality in the political arena, it's important to keep fighting the women's fight."
Peltier also noted the recent installation of a digital kiosk at the museum on East Road that will let visitors read some of Anthony's writings and explore other aspects of the suffragist movement.
Peltier went the extra mile on a hot, humid Saturday by donning authentic 19th-century clothing to portray Alva Belmont Vanderbilt, a prominent activist in the suffragist movement.