Alice Paul

HONOR THY MOTHERS — Alice Paul sews the last star onto the 19th Amendment ratification banner.

The flag is the first step in a larger 19th amendment celebration planned for 2020

Gearing up for the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment — granting citizens of every sex the ability to vote — folks in west county are getting together to sew. The West Sonoma County Historical Society and West County Museum are hosting an old-fashioned sewing bee on July 20 with the goal of re-creating the 19th Amendment victory flag.

The flag, which will feature one star for each of the 36 states needed to ratify the amendment, is 20 feet long and will be hand-sewn like the original created by Alice Paul.

“I’ve been researching the suffrage movement for the last year, reading articles and viewing photos in archives. I’m most interested in Alice Paul, the suffragist who started sewing the flag,” said Mary Paul Dodgion of the West Sonoma County Historical Society and West County Museum. “One article told of the day the last state needed for ratification was received, and Alice Paul unfurled the banner from a second floor balcony to the cheers of supporters below.”

“I could just see us reproducing the banner the old-fashioned way, by hand. And I could visualize it being carried in the 2020 Apple Blossom Parade,” she said. “It should be impressive.”

For Dodgion, re-creating the flag is a tangible way to honor those who fought for women’s right to vote.

“In the late 1770s through 1800s states began revoking women’s right to vote. So the struggle began in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. From 1869 with Wyoming the first state to pass full right to vote, to Tennessee in 1919, the last needed, the campaign was performed by a tremendous number of women and men,” she said. “So each star on the flag is the unspoken thanks to all who made it happen.”

The sewing bee is the first event in a larger centennial celebration that will primarily take place next year, when the museum and historical society will honor the work of suffragists with more events.

“We’re working with the National Women’s History Alliance on mapping where local suffragists lived, had meetings, gave talks and are buried; we made lists of people and places,” Dodgion said. “From this list we have names of people who participated in the Votes for Women effort; we will be placing a sign at each gravesite in their honor; the majority of people are buried at the Sebastopol Memorial Lawn …  Next year there will be an organized event where a group of local youth clubs and their leaders will place the markers. We will be placing suffrage flags at the entrance of the cemetery as an indication that suffragists are buried there.”

There will also be an exhibit in the museum dedicated to honoring suffragists, both those who founded the movement and those who were local.

“Visitors should expect to enter our suffrage headquarters and learn about how this movement rolled into Sebastopol,” Dodgion said. The exhibit is set to open on April 2, 2020, with a grand opening on April 4.

Additionally, Dodgion said that they plan to have a large presence at the Apple Blossom Parade — they’ll be reenacting a suffrage march dressed in white, carrying signs and lining up with the suffrage banner being made on July 20.

Those interested in participating in the sewing bee can drop by the Luther Burbank Experiment Farm Cottage at 7777 Bodega Ave. in Sebastopol. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 20. Participants should bring their thimble, needles and a pair of scissors. Fabric and thread is being provided.

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