On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote* in the U.S. – and Newport played an important role. To mark the 100th anniversary of this history making milestone, The Preservation Society of Newport County will debut a new exhibit at Rosecliff entitled, Becoming Vanderbilt. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont held women’s suffrage rallies and conferences at her Newport mansion, Marble House, and used her social prominence and wealth to help promote and finance the effort. She was an unlikely champion of the cause but fiercely dedicated (as seen by her famous “Votes for Women” -inscribed china and tea sets). She went on to become president of the National Women’s Party. The exhibit will showcase personal effects, clothing and memorabilia of Alva as well as Gilded Age “influencers” Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, her daughter Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (the well-known artist and museum) and Alva’s daughter Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan (former Countess of Marlborough, activist and an autobiographer). Pulitzer-prize winning American writer and Newporter Maud Howe Elliott, a founder of the Progressive Party and founding member of the Newport Art Association, also took part in the suffrage movement.
* In some states, African-American women were unable to vote up until the 1960s. Native American and Asian women weren’t able to vote until after 1924, when they were granted citizenship, though many were historically kept from the polls.