A century of ballots

Female voters group celebrates women’s suffrage milestone

OBSERVER Photo by Damian Sebouhian. Right: Susan B. Anthony (Christina Rausa) answers questions about her role in the suffrage movement.

The Chautauqua County League of Women Voters held its annual meeting earlier this week at the Domus Fare restaurant in Fredonia. The event was held, in part, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York state.

The league presented the “student inside Albany” award to Dunkirk High School student Alex Majka; awarded “Leaguer of the Year” honors to Lisa Mertz; participated in a “press conference with Susan B. Anthony;” and honored League member Minda Rae Amiran with the inaugural Elizabeth Cady Stanton award. Attendees included Fredonia Mayor Athanasia Landis and a representative from Assemblyman Andy Goodell’s office.

As a recipient of the “student inside Albany” scholarship, Majka will receive a fully paid trip to Albany, where he will have the opportunity to shadow an elected representative.

Majka will “get to learn how to lobby, how to advocate, and how to get things done,” said League member Mary Croxton.

Mertz, a retired faculty member at the City University of New York, who currently works as a massage therapist, was awarded Leaguer of the Year for her efforts in putting the Chautauqua League on the social media map.

Lisa Mertz poses with her Leaguer of the Year award.

“(Mertz’s) work has been really instrumental to getting the word out to our members,” Croxton said.

After dining on the three-course meal, which received unanimous and enthusiastic approval from the attendees, Anthony made an appearance from the pages of history to stage a press conference. Taking selected questions from the audience, Anthony, portrayed by professional actress Christina Rausa, answered questions about women’s rights, explained why she never got married, and even offered her views on bicycling (“I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world”).

The “press conference,” as explained later by Rausa, was adopted from a transcript of an interview between Anthony and famous women’s rights activist Nellie Bly.

At the tail end of the meeting, Amiran, a League member and former English Professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, was surprised with a reading of a letter penned by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I join in congratulating a distinguished honoree, Minda Rae Amiran, who will receive the inaugural Elizabeth Cady Stanton award in honor of the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York state,” wrote Cuomo.

League members described Amiran as “a classic example of the power of humility” and “a veritable Niagara of good works.”

“Minda Rae opened up a dialogue between Democrats and Republicans on ways to find common ground and have civil discourse and deliberation on issues that we agree upon,” Croxton said. “That is a wonderful little nugget on the way this community is better than many others.”