A small town creates a big event for a great woman. In so doing, the townsfolk and neighboring denizens discover for themselves, not only their history but, more importantly, find pride and inspiration in their hero. I was invited to Lewis, New York for a celebration of Inez Milholland’s 130th Birthday where I would present my new film, Inez Milholland ~ Forward into Light witha Q & A afterwards. Before the film a local historian would be revealing her research on the history of the Milholland Family in Lewis.
History talks can often turn to recitation of dates, primogeniture and be-gots but this local, curious, authentic researcher of Lewis and Milholland history shared everything she found about the Milhollands, with humor, enthusiasm and rich resources. My understanding of Inez’s background was filled out with real flesh! Instead of a few scattered souls at the Lewis Congregational Church for this event, the church, albeit, small, was filled with an attentive audience.
They loved and cheered the Inez film, and asked good questions. They told me how someone over the past weeks had been coming up to the cemetery where the Milhollands were buried. They had been setting the markers a-straight, weeding and clearing grass from all the stones, and cleaning the gravestones. It must be angels, I remarked seriously!
When I announced that copies of the Inez Film on DVD’s were for FREE, they held their breath: is that really so? Can I really have one to show my grandchildren who grew up here? I want to take one to the 6th grade teacher whose great-grandmother knew Inez’s Mother. What a joy to give out those films!
Then we all, yes all the congregation, adjourned to the big cozy kitchen for Inez’s birthday cake, complete with her portrait, and adorned with a “statuette of a woman on a white horse, with a sash vote for women, which one of the church ladies had made. It was a glorious cake to honor Inez. Another church lady had made 30 cupcakes, with stars on them, to surround the cake. It was a very touching moment and everyone who would admit this, felt the energy of the evening.
The next day, Inez’s actual birthday, August 6, my sister and I first visited Meadowmount, the very large 34 room home that John E. Milholland, Inez’s father, built at the height of his wealth – ostensible to give poor children from the inner cities , a summer place to retreat among animals and healthful country living. John ‘s intentions were not realized actually, as he lost his wealth carelessly, and the family then lived both in London and New York much more modestly, within John’s newspaper salary.
Today the buildings are the MEADOWMOUNT SCHOOL OF MUSIC, one of the finest and intense practicum for strings and piano. There studied and taught such teachers as Jascha Heifetz, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Paul Zukofsky and hundred others. It is still such an esteemed school.
There I met Mary Macgowan, a director and another fine local historian who shared more Milholland history with me. A wider and deeper picture of what forces helped to form Inez’s ethics and energy emerged more than any biography I had read.
The most moving visit during that trip was to meditate and absorb Inez at her actual grave. The cemetery plot, which previously had been mysteriously cleaned and cleared, had indeed been manicured, but by arrangements from John A Milholland, Inez great nephew, whose father was descendent of John A, Inez’s brother, the only child to produce progeny.
The red rose I placed on Inez’s grave was in keeping with the how she was viewed as a great American Beauty. When her coffin arrived from Los Angeles, into the town of Lewis for burial, her father had adorned it with 2 dozen red roses.
Inez had a younger sister (also buried there), Vida, who traveled with Inez and carried on Suffrage work after Inez’s death. In fact Vida was arrested and went on a hunger strike in 1917, following in her sister’s spirit.
Vida never married but lived the last 30 years of her life with a woman companion, caring for her mother in one of their residence They were always plagued with financial worries and she committed suicide in 1952. The whole family was rested on the top of the hill, looking out over the meadows toward the great Green Mountains of Vermont, across Lake Champlain. What a beautiful spot.
The Friday event extended beyond the folks of Lewis. As we covered three counties, giving away the DVD to libraries, historical museums, even hotels and civic centers in Essex and Clinton Counties, Plattsburgh and Elizabethtown, great appreciation was express by those who received this FREE DVD. The recipients felt honored as all we met knew Inez’s name and were familiar with her short life’s story. They treasured the fact that she was a local girl, who did more than just ride a white horse and die at age 30 from working too hard on the campaign for Women’s Suffrage. She was their Hero.
INEZ MILHOLLAND: FORWARD INTO LIGHT Joan E. Smiles ‘65
Inez Milholland, Vassar Class of 1909, was a famous horsewoman and an advocate for gender equality, pacifism, racial justice, labor, and women’s suffrage, who died far too young at age 30.
ELEVATE WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY TO A FEDERAL HOLIDAY PETITION
August 26th is Women’s Equality Day here in the United States. Though this is a landmark date, many Americans are still unaware of its existence or the significance of such day.
Women’s Equality Day is largely important to American history. For one, on August 26, 1920, women were officially granted the right to vote in the United States after the certification of the 19th amendment. Fifty years later on August 26, 1970, feminists activists joined ranks on this day to remind our legislators that the buck doesn’t stop there. They organized a protest with over 100,000 women to campaign for equality in education, employment and childcare. On this same day in 1971, a national bill was passed to designate August 26th a day of prominence- Women’s Equality Day.
This petition is an effort to further recognize the importance of this day to not only make sure that it is enriched in history lessons but that it deemed important enough to take precedence as a federal holiday. By recognizing this day as federally important, we will be commemorating and celebrating the efforts of the women that have come before us as pioneers and activists who sought the need for women’s social and political mobility. Also, it an effort to keep the torch burning so that women and girls can live in a society that see and treat them as equals.
“US Congresswoman Jackie Speier has nominated Ms. Milholland for the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian award of the nation. The National Women’s History Project, an organization that celebrates the diverse and historic accomplishments of American women, would like you to join Congresswoman Speier in urging President Obama to award this amazing woman with one of America’s highest honors.
During her short life, Inez fought for equality for all. As one of New York state’s only female lawyers at a time when few women practiced law, she was an advocate for racial justice and a champion for prisoners’ and workers’ rights. But it was her fight for women’s suffrage that made her a true American hero. Between 1910 and 1916, she became a central figure in the drive for Votes for Women in New York State and throughout the country, chairing meetings, answering opponents’ arguments, lobbying state legislators, and leading suffrage parades up Fifth Avenue. In march 1913 Inez led thousands of women suffrage activists in a parade in the nation’s capitol. She died on the campaign trail in 1916.
Because of Inez Milholland Boissevain’s work, and the persistence of tens of thousands of American suffragists from 1848 to 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed to ensure women’s voting rights now and for future generations. It’s time we bring recognition to someone who gave everything to win these crucial rights for her fellow Americans.
Please join us in petitioning President Obama to award Inez Milholland the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Wild West Women proudly announces the release and complimentary distribution of
“Inez Milholland ~~ Forward into Light”
This documentary tells the story of American icon, Inez Milholland who broke convention with her striking conscience advocating for gender equality, pacifism, racial justice, unions and free speech in the early Twentieth Century. She became the voice of suffrage.
In 1916 she crossed the country, giving 50 speeches in 28 days. Pushing through exhaustion and anemia she fell at the podium October 23,1916 at Los Angeles, Blanchard Hall. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital where she died 30 days later. Her last public sentence, “President Wilson, how long must women wait for liberty?”
Run time 15 minutes http://InezMilholland.org (c) 2016Martha Wheelock
Inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s production and free distribution of “Selma,” filmmaker, Martha Wheelock made the decision to make a film about Inez Milholland, American Suffragist who lost her life while campaigning across the West for federal suffrage.
With the shockingly low numbers of Americans voting, Martha wants women and girls to understand the cost and importance of the vote. How better than tell the story of Inez Milholland, astounding woman who gave her life for the 19th Amendment?
Celebrate casting your vote.
Order the DVD to show at your school, library, organization
The most robust and graphical website on Inez Milholland
Written, Produced and Directed by Martha Wheelock
Edited by Ashley Monti Assistant Producer Zoe Nicholson
Narrated by Libby West Art design Phillip Tommey
Associate Producers: Peg Yorkin, Virginia Carter, Judith Osmer, Joan Smiles.
A Kickstarter Project
A project of the National Women’s History Project and Wild West Women, inc.
Most know this famous rider but don’t know her name: Inez Milholland. Very few know her story. She was American Amazon who broke convention with her striking conscience. She was an advocate for gender equality, pacifism, racial justice, unions and free speech.
Her dedication was emboldened with a degree from Vassar, NYU Law Degree and admission to the New York Bar.
She captured headlines and mesmerized audiences as she proved that voting rights appealed, not just to “brainy women,” but to all women, “ladies” and beauties as well. Most famously, she led the 1913 Suffrage Parade on her horse, Gray Dawn; risking all as she rode directly into the masses of violent disapproving men. White cape, gloves and a crown, Inez became the Suffrage Movement’s very own Joan of Arc, the national iconic figure for VOTES FOR WOMEN.
Overcoming her insecurity of public speaking, she evolved into the voice of suffrage. In 1916, at the request of the National Woman’s Party, Inez traveled across the country, giving 50 speeches in 28 days through nine Western states where women COULD vote. . Never complaining, never hesitating, she collected herself, and rose to speak again and again.
Fighting through exhaustion, anemia, severe dental infections and persistent tonsillitis, she fell at the podium October 23,1916 at Blanchard Hall in Los Angeles. Her last public sentence, “President Wilson, how long must women wait for liberty? With that emotional plea and clear statement, Inez fell from the podium, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital where she died 30 days later. She was only 30 years old.