At Oneida Public Library on Wednesday, March 11, at 7:00 p.m., Madison County Historian Matthew Urtz will present a program on women’s political activism in the county during the years leading up to passage of women’s right to vote in New York State in 1917 and, in 1920, a right guaranteed nationally by the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Matthew Urtz, Madison County Historian
In particular, Urtz will highlight the female pro-suffragist forces in Oneida and among the descendants of the Oneida Community and contrast them with the ladies of Cazenovia who adamantly opposed women’s suffrage. Of course, either side had to persuade the men of the county, since only eligible males could vote for state and federal legislators and for or against the state referenda on women’s suffrage. In 1917, the male voters of Madison County by a slight majority joined the majority of voters in the state who passed the referendum to give women 21 years of age and older the right to vote in local and state elections.
Still, as Urtz will describe, the county’s anti-suffrage forces did not give up and lobbied their federal and state representatives to vote no on a women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They lost. Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919; in August 2020, after ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures, the right of women to vote became the law of the land.
Urtz, who was appointed county historian by the County Board of Supervisors in April 2010, has published articles on local history in many local and regional publications and regularly gives historical presentations around Madison County. He serves on the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro and on the Board of Directors of the Preservation Association of Central New York. Currently, he is first vice-president and Region 9 coordinator for the Association of Public Historians in New York State.
As county historian, Urtz has worked to make county government archives and local primary documents available to educators and the public through partnerships with the schools, archival exhibits and ambitious digitization projects, including a current project to digitize the Highway Department’s photographs from the 1940s on. For the renovation of the County Courthouse in Wampsville, he organized the restoration of the courthouse’s numerous portraits and led public tours at its re-opening. Around the county he has organized historical re-enactments at local cemeteries in a program dubbed “If Tombstones Could Talk” and, since 2018, he has led tours of the county’s historically significant restaurants, complete with “historic” dinners. In 2020, Urtz will expand his tours to sites and buildings in the county of historic significance.
Urtz’s lecture is another in a series of special programs in the OPL’s 2020 Centennial Celebration of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment. It is free and open to all. For more information, stop by the Oneida Library, 220 Broad St., or call 315-363-3050.