Bunnell, FL – In today’s world it seems almost unimaginable that a time existed when women in the United States couldn’t cast a ballot, but in reality, it’s only been 101 short years since women were ‘given’ the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment.
It’s the sentiment that women even had to earn it that ignites a fire within Maruchi Azorin, and as a commissioner for the Florida Commission on the Status of Women and chair of the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, it’s something she’s particularly passionate about. Making the trip over from Tampa on Saturday, Azorin was one of several powerhouse women who took to the podium in celebration of Women’s Equality Day 2021, and to honor a 2020 Flagler County hall of fame inductee.
“When I hear women were given the right to vote, it drives me crazy, because the women earned the right to vote. They worked real hard,” she said.
“The Women’s Hall of Fame has really brought out towns like Bunnell, the heartbeat of America, the heartbeat of Florida, that produced and groomed these women that found by themselves they needed to do this because it wasn’t going to get any better for them,” said Azorin.
“They’ve left us a legacy that we really have to uphold. I really hope that the young women who are here today will learn from all of the words that were spoken, that you don’t just sit back and do nothing. You have to get up and get working. So, all my congratulations to the City of Bunnell.”
Hosted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Flagler County Branch, those with a vested interest in history attended the program which not only celebrated the accomplished women in Flagler County of today, but offered a look back at the women who have been trailblazers since the county’s inception in 1917.
Among the guest speakers, which included Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson and Flagler County Judge Andrea Totten, Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston shared her family’s long history of public service, highlighting the milestones of some remarkable women.
Dating back to the earliest days, her great grandmother Nell Allen was the first woman, listed by the Flagler Tribune, in October 1920 as qualified and registered to vote for the historic 1920 general election in precinct 1, Bunnell. She would be followed by family members Ria Allen Johnston, who served as the first woman on the Flagler County school board in 1960, and Mayor Johnston’s her own mother Suzanne Johnston, who served as the only female property appraiser in Flagler County’s history, and has been the county’s tax collector since 2004.
Not to be forgotten, the woman of the hour was without a doubt former Bunnell resident Alice Scott Abbott, a pioneer of the suffrage movement in Flagler County. Abbott’s legacy was formalized by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when she was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020 after the “Let’s Add Alice” campaign.
“The importance of today is to not only remind everybody what the suffragists did, but to make sure the next generations coming up understand their sacrifice and just how hard they worked,” said AAUW publicity chair Kim Medley.
During the ceremony, the plaque recognizing Abbott’s place in Florida history was presented to the Flagler County Historical Society for safekeeping, as was an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol at the behest of U.S. Congressman Michael Waltz.
Historical Society member James Fiske shared the next step, a call-to-action campaign known as “Move That Church” with guests. Currently underway and historically linked Alice Scott Abbott, once completed, the church will house the Florida Women’s Voting Rights Museum.
Flagler County Historical Society president Ed Siarkowicz considers this the natural progression of solidifying the State Road 100 and US 1 crossroads as a history education corridor, supported by numerous organizations through the newly formed Flagler County Preservation Society.
“The significance is that it gives us another puzzle of history’s stories to be able to tell to children and their families so that they can take the lessons of history, the people who survived difficult times and their life lessons, and apply it to their own lives. They can now change the way that they view the current world, and incorporate aspects of the positive and successful struggles into their own personalities to become successful themselves,” said Siarkowicz.
“Having Alice Scott Abbott and the story that she has, I hope will inspire a lot of the young ladies and children that were here to say ‘that is a really cool story, let me read up more on this’ and then you never know where that’s going to take them in life,” he said.
Sharing her own historical memories, Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson was thrilled to take part in the program and support the momentum for preserving history moving forward.
“This event today was amazing. I learned a lot and didn’t know the sacrifice of this little lady who lived in Bunnell and her role in the legacy she’s left,” shared Robinson. “I’m so proud of what we do here in Bunnell. History is interwoven into who we are and what we do, and it’s exciting.”