This is one of the most significant artifacts among the accumulated curiosities in my family archives. It belonged to my Gr-great Aunt Het, (Esther Ogden 1867-1956), who was active in the leadership of the National American Woman Suffrage Association during the critical period between 1912-1920 when women finally won the vote.
Aunt Het was the president of the National Women Suffrage Publishing Company as well as a member of NAWSA's executive. My grandmother used to tell stories about riding around in Het's "Model T" with "Votes for Women" banners streaming, and getting pencils emblazoned with suffrage slogans from Christmas that her aunt's publishing company had produced. The item pictured above, however, is one of a kind. It was Esther Ogden's gavel during National Suffrage Day events, May 2, 1914. This was the occasion of rallies and suffrage activities across the country - Delaware had its largest votes for women rally on this date in 1914 - and Het probably participated in New York City where she lived and NAWSA had its national headquarters.
In 1914 the Women Suffrage Amendment was supported by a bare majority of Senators (35-34) when it came to a vote and the following year it failed in the House 174-204. More and more western states, however, were giving women the vote, and by 1919 a 2/3 majority voted in support of the 19th amendment. An enormous amount of effort at the grassroots and national levels helped to bring this change about, and Esther Ogden later would write that her part in the struggle represented "the years of my long life which to me were the most worthwhile."
There have been many strong women in my family. My daughter is clearly cut from that cloth. Aunt Het knew she was working for future generations (having my grandmother particularly in mind), but 87 years after the 19th Amendment became law, this gavel is a reminder of the effort it took to bring that about.