ESPANOLA, Fla. (August 27, 2022) Going from a campaign to mark the 100th year of voting rights for women to a full-fledged passion project for historian and researcher Kim Medley, the story of Alice Scott Abbott’s life has led her on a long and winding road through history.
And it’s still making history today.
Officially dedicating the National Votes for Women Trail marker at Abbott’s gravesite in the Espanola Cemetery on Saturday, it’s one more stepping stone along the path after the local voting rights icon’s appointment to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020 by Governor Ron DeSantis, toward the eventual creation of the Florida Women’s Voting Rights Museum in Flagler’s County seat of Bunnell.
“This represents a lot of work by a lot of people. Women’s struggle to gain the right to vote in the 1920 election was a pivotal part of American history,” said Siarkowicz.
“This marker adds prominence to Alice Scott Abbott’s gravesite and for future projects we are going to be working diligently on making a marker specific to women’s voting rights because here in the cemetery we’re surrounded by a number of other women who were pioneering voters in Flagler County in 1920.”
The Flagler County Historical Society, led by Siarkowicz, has worked closely with the American Association of University Women, Flagler Chapter to support the historical project, and is helping spearhead the efforts to move the Seventh Day Adventist Church where Abbott was the music director next to the historical society’s museum and research center.
Celebrating the dedication of the historical marker funded by the Pomeroy Foundation, members of the AAUW Flagler Chapter reprised their roles representing suffragists, and chapter co-president Susan Baird expressed her pleasure at being part of such a historic project to identify Flagler County’s earliest women voters in 1920.
“This is a historic day and I’m so happy to be part of it,” shared Baird.
Portraying Alice Scott Abbott, Kathy Reichard-Ellvasky was surprised to learn of the challenges women faced when advocating for their rights.
“I am so honored to be portraying Alice Scott Abbott,” she said. “This journey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote has been a very eye opening experience for me. I had no idea the suffering that these women endured and the amount of determination and tenacity that it required.”
Medley was candid about the work put in by volunteers to continue pushing the project forward.
“It really started as a publicity stunt, if you will. We wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary and we thought if we could find the first woman to register and vote in Flagler that would be kind of cool, and we’d get maybe 15 minutes of publicity,” she said.
“But it really just started as a ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride’. We found Alice’s name through Sisco Dean and we started scanning newspaper clippings only to learn that she had died so she wouldn’t have been able to vote in November. But just her story, what she was able to do in Missouri, she honed her skills in Missouri and brought all that talent to the Bunnell colony in 1913 and she no sooner got here and started attending state and national conventions. Suffrage had been added to the platform of the Women Christian Temperance Union so she was very adamant. Women wanted to vote to change things going on in their community,” said Medley.
The 19th Amendment was ratified on August 26, 1920. In Flagler County, 200 women registered to vote, 52 of them African-American. Two women were listed on the ballot as candidates for school board. Tragically, Abbott would pass away from ovarian cancer less than two weeks before the November 2, 1920 election.
“This whole project, from finding her, getting recognition, getting her into the Women’s Hall of Fame for the 100th anniversary, and now the marker. When you think about it, her death and headstone here represents so many women that fought and never got a chance to cast that ballot.”
For more information on Alice Scott Abbott, visit www.flwomenshalloffame.org/bio/alice-scott-abbott.