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Wait-list space only for ‘A Toast to Tenacity’suffrage celebration

By Staff | Aug 15, 2019

Members of the public hoping to take part in the 99th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may be disappointed.

“A Toast to Tenacity,” set for Aug. 25 to celebrate the success of the women’s suffrage movement, is at capacity and those seeking admission to the free event at the Alliance for the Arts will now need to join a wait list, according to the reservations web site.

“The event is to highlight the kinds of things women and men went through to get their rights,” said Madelon Stewart, one of the delegates to Vision 2020 from Florida.

“It’s a celebration,” said Audrea Anderson, a member of the Progressive Women of Southwest Florida’s governing board. “We are celebrating the 19th amendment and the rights women now have in this democratic society.”

Presented by Vision 2020 in partnership with the Fort Myers Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the Progressive Women of Southwest Florida, L.L.C., and the Alliance for the Arts, A Toast to Tenacity will feature a short performance from “The Agitators,” a play by Mat Smart, about the lifelong friendship between suffragist, Susan B. Anthony and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass.

Stewart says the Progressive Women of Southwest Florida is a group where women educate each other about major issues involving women and girls in Lee County and the country.

Vision 2020 is a national coalition of individuals and organizations in all 50 states. They work together for women’s economic, political and social equality in the U.S.

Adults and children 12 and older who attend the event will also experience a 15-minute spoken-word segment featuring local citizens as key figures from the suffrage movement.

Some characters are Abigail Adams, who wrote to her husband, one of the white male property owners drafting the Declaration of Independence:

“Remember the Ladies or we will surely foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Others include Sojourner Truth, who escaped slavery and spoke to hundreds of audiences about human rights, including women’s right to vote, and Alice Paul, who organized the first women’s march on Washington, D.C. in 1913. Paul, along with other human rights activists, was verbally and physically assaulted.

“It’s a way for people to get a feel for the story and movement,” Stewart said.

“We are not glossing over the facts because they’re facts none of us are proud of,” she said. “In the end, the point is to move forward together.”

There will also be a voting quiz with prizes, and a grape juice toast reminiscent of the one suffragists used to mark the passage of the 19th Amendment 99 years ago. The grape juice is because back then Prohibition was still in effect.

The first celebration of A Toast to Tenacity was in 2017.

About 20 to 25 women attended and the event highlighted Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African-American investigative journalist and early leader in the civil rights movement. Wells-Barnett was also one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“We were not taught this in school,” Anderson said. “There is a very fine curriculum and history of women that should be taught in schools and these women should be honored.”

In 2018, 120 people attended and it was also held at the Alliance for the Arts.

Stewart says the audience last year was exciting and diverse.

“It was thrilling,” she said. “We had such a mixed group of people. That’s what we want to continue.”

This year, Stewart and Anderson hoped to see 135 people come out and celebrate the 99th anniversary of the passage of the amendment.

“I think our enthusiasm was infectious and folks really embraced it and want to learn more,” Anderson said of last year’s turnout. “We’re at a time now when people depend very much on getting people to the polls and voting.”

Part of A Toast to Tenacity’s theme is honoring the past while shaping the future.

“The original suffragists didn’t live long enough to vote. It was an arduous task to get the amendment passed,” Anderson said.

Some guests at this year’s A Toast to Tenacity include Fort Myers Mayor, Randall P. Henderson; Peter Ndiang’ui, chair of the Mayor’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee; Kathy Dupuy Bruno, president of the Fort Myers Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Karen Nathan and Alex Bremner, co-chairs of Progressive Women of Southwest Florida; Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle; Florida Rights Restoration board member Neil Volz; and local Vision 2020 delegates Madelon Stewart and Nori Ann Reed.

Sponsors include The Progressive Club of the Islands; The League of Women Voters of Lee County, Florida; and The League of Women Voters of Sanibel.

Stewart says the goal for the event is to educate people and inspire them to learn about the kinds of suffering people went through to get the vote to us. She also wants to inspire people to take voting more seriously.

“To not only go to the polls themselves but to work on getting others to go to the polls,” Anderson said.

“It’s so important for us to understand where we came from and where we are today in this society,” she said. “We would not be here if someone did not go through the struggle these suffragists went through.”

For those interested in seeing if space opens up, the event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Alliance for the Arts, 10091 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers.

Register at artinlee.org/event/tenacity/ or email progressivewomenofswfl@gmail.com