Dover, March 3, 2012 — At the old state house on the Green the legislature faced a make or break decision today on women’s right to vote. With the heated national debate now stirring up turmoil in Delaware, everyone took sides as lawmakers grappled with the issue. Governor John G. Townsend, Jr. strongly supported the franchise and suffragists squeezed a victory out of the Senate. If the House approved the 19th amendment, it would become the law of the land since ratification by only one more state was needed.
In this contentious climate, everyone having strong opinions, the suffragists and the antis flooded the capital, making sure they were heard. The governor showed up and amid periodic outbursts from the crowd he made a strong speech supporting women’s rights. The activists were there too, including suffragist leaders Mabel Vernon and her opponent Mary Wilson Thompson. Both women pitched their best arguments but in the end the House of Representatives failed to approve the amendment. The crowd wasn’t shy for they let their voices be heard on this important debate by roaring approval or disapproval on key arguments. And the nosey newspapermen from Dover and Wilmington on the state house beat, worked the angles to develop exciting copy for readers.
It was all historical theater on this Saturday as interpreters from the First State Heritage Park, an urban park without boundaries, transported a large audience back to the spring of 1920 when this power struggle involving strong forces rattled the tranquility of Dover. In the historic atmosphere of the old state house on the Dover Green the interpreters brought to life some of the men and women involved in this polarizing decision. It was all well done and worth seeing as we learned about the time when many people argued that women shouldn’t be given the franchise. The performers were first class and the content was superb. Although from another era, its quality is similar to the professional delivery of interpretive programming at Williamsburg.
By-the-way, the park has many colonial and federal era programs and they’re all superb. It’s a great way to present engaging history lessons with solid content, while connecting the modern audience with the past. This fine, dramatic work by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Divisions of Parks and Recreation is valuable as it draws visitors to the Dover Green and accurately presents stories from the state’s past.
Be sure to check out the park’s schedule of programs. There are many that will be of interest.