We can’t confirm this, but one of the women in this photo looks very much like my paternal grandmother – Mary Olmstead Beach. And it could be, as she was known to be a suffragette who did march in a number of demonstrations.
Grandma Mary was born in 1897. From what I’ve been told, she was a woman born before her time – independent, strong-willed, outspoken, and free-spirited…and she wasn’t afraid to express what she felt. (Look like anyone you know???) She graduated from high school at a time when few women even finished eighth grade, and then left the comfort of her family and the town she lived in to go work in an munitions factory during World War I. She didn’t marry until her late twenties, and didn’t have her first (and only) child until she was 35.
Yes, Mary could be considered an “early feminist.” She believed in education for women, equal pay for women, and the right to vote for women – and she fought for all three. When women won the right to vote in 1920, Mary was right there to cast her ballot. She voted in every election since, the last one being in 1960 when she gave her support to a young senator from Massachusetts. Grandma Mary died in July of 1962. I was not yet four years old. I can barely remember her.
And yet I carry on her proud legacy. She once said that “one day, a woman shall be president of the United States.” People laughed at her then…but they are not laughing now. I’m sure Mary would be thrilled to know that a woman now stands as a major candidate in the presidential campaign. Whether this woman wins or not is not the point – for Mary, it would merely be the pride of seeing how far women have come in the last one hundred years. Yes, we still have more work to do…but we’re getting there!
So in November I will be casting my vote, as Mary did nearly 100 years ago.
I am her granddaughter, after all.