"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union ... Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less." - Susan B. Anthony
In celebration of the Woman's Club of Warren's Centennial, "Equality of Rights. The First Woman's Rights Convention," a play written by Gerald S. Argetsinger, will be presented at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Woman's Club of Warren, 310 Market St., Warren. The event is being presented "in partnership and celebration of the Warren League of Women Voters: 50 years of educating citizens; Woman's Club of Warren: 100 years of collegiality; Allegheny Center for the Arts: two years of fostering acting excellence; and the Warren County Historical Society: 112 years of preserving local history."
"Equality of Rights is an historical dramatization of the events leading up to, and a re-creation of, the first Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, July 19-20, 1848," explained Argetsinger, who is on instructional faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology. "While it is true to the people and events portrayed, as in all historic drama, some dramatic license was required in order to tell the story in a cohesive, straight-forward manner. Very little is actually known about specific conversations between individuals. In some instances, such as the meeting at Mary Ann M'Clintock's house, it is not known who actually attended. However, the issues discussed and the viewpoints of the characters are accurate insofar as current research and opinion allow. Even though the play is not 'history,' it is historically true." Gerald Argetsinger
The cast of the 2008 presentation
Gary Brumagin rehearses James Mott as he reads the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments at the Seneca Fall Woman’s Rights Convention. The convention took place at the Wesleyn Methodist Chapelin 1848 at Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Dr. John John and Jean Gomory are going over some notes for the convention. They are playing Frederick Douglass, a former slave,and Mary Ann M’Clintock.
Michelle Gray, Mark Davis, Karen Davis and Phyllis Wright discuss plans for the play “Equality of Rights.” They represent the Warren County Historical Society, Allegheny Center for the Arts acting guild, Woman’s Club and Warren County League of Women Voters. All four groups have partnered to celebrate the founding and mission of their organizations.
Karin Davidson, Jean Gomory, Dr. Ruth Barnes Shaw, Cris Beuger and Jenette Guntly rehearse the planning of the first women’s rights convention. They are playing: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt at M’Clintock’s home
The play is an "historic dramatization in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the 1848 Woman's Rights Convention, performed for the 1998 Celebration, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York," as stated within the original script.
According to Phyllis Wright of the League of Women Voters, the play is especially poignant to the league and its efforts to bring awareness to equality for women.
"The play is significant to note the 50th anniversary of the Warren League of Women Voters. It depicts the first Women's Rights Convention that brought awareness to the equality of women," Wright explained. "It took 72 years (1920) for the 20th amendment to pass that allowed women's right to vote. The national league formed in 1920 following the woman's suffrage movement to promote women's right to vote as well as other issues affecting women and their families."
Locally, the play is a reprise of the 2008 presentation when Mark Davis directed it at Woman's Club with a Victorian Tea.
Davis again leads the effort as director with a certain affinity for the piece.
The play "highlights how the movement for women's rights got started in 1848 by a very small group of women (five) in a very small town. It shows how a small group could have an impact on their community and the whole country. Woman's Clubs were started across the country because of the woman's movement."
The play begs the question how a community is strengthened through its women, and the "characters work to answer that question," Davis shared. "In many ways, women's equality, not only benefited women but took some of life's burdens away from the men. As women gained rights, they added to the professions within Warren and were able to own businesses of their own," Davis continued. "My own great aunt was able to give great financial support to her family just to give one example."
The women's rights movement began the momentum that continues today in the form of women serving in elected offices, and even of girls playing sports, and more.
Davis, president of the board of directors of the Allegheny Center for the Arts (ACA), feels the ACA "uniquely contributes to the 'Equality of Rights' event through the acting guild in that it can work to do shorter plays and less well-known plays (for) the community. There is a need to help bring history alive from Warren and the surrounding area in ways Warren Players is not able to do. By working with the historical society, this group of actors can bring more history alive."
The synergy offered through this particular event is satisfying in that the "event brings together groups who don't normally work together. The Warren County Historical Society brings its outreach of interest in history to the planning process and the LWV is committed to looking at issues in a non-partisan manner."
"The women in the play are bonding," Davis said, and "having a great deal of fun. There is a great group of experienced actors and a few new actors to add freshness to the stage. The play is well-written and brings the beginning of the work for women's rights in focus very well."
The play's cast will include: Charlotte Woodward played by Lou Cable; Reporter by Jeff Johnson; Jane Hunt by Cris Beuger; Lucretia Mott by Jenette Guntly; Martha Coffin Wright by Dr. Ruth Barnes Shaw; Mary Ann McClintock by Jean Gomory; Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Karin Davidson; James Mott by Gary Brumagin; Frederick Douglass by Dr. John John; Daniel, an 11 year old boy, by Jack Shaw; Woman 1 and Woman 2 by Elissa Davis; Man 1 by Dr. Mark Beuger; and Man 2 by Jonathan Hart. Lighting will be handled by John Shaughnesy and costumes by Lou Cable, Ruth Shaw and Charmaine Check
Tickets are $12 per person for the performance and refreshments and on sale at the Warren County Historical Society, 210 Fourth Ave. (723-1795), at the Woman's Club, 310 Market St. (723-5910), and online at www.warrenhistory.org.