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PNC co-sponsors performance of ‘May’s Vote’

“May’s Vote,” a play on two women who led the campaign that won the vote for women in Washington State in 1910, will be performed virtually twice the last week of January. 


It is being sponsored by University Congregational UCC in Seattle, in collaboration with Plymouth UCC Church and the Pacific Northwest Conference UCC. 

Performances are at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 26, and at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 29.           

The play is an opportunity to learn about how Washington State’s victory in woman’s suffrage became a turning point in the fight to win the vote for women nationwide and the role Seattle’s Plymouth UCC and other churches played in the Washington State campaign.

Prim and proper Emma Smith DeVoe and outrageous, flamboyant May Arkwright Hutton worked side by side—but seldom eye to eye—to win the vote for women in Washington State in 1910.  Emma and May were as different as night and day, which makes for a lively play, said Barbara Callander, a member of Magnolia UCC in Seattle, who plays Emmas.

A professional actor, stage manager and arts administrator for more than 35 years, she grew up in Christ Congregational UCC in Silver Spring, Maryland, and graduated from Oberlin College.  She received the “Write Women Back into History” Award from the National Women’s History Project.

Denise Winter, artistic director of Key City Public Theatre in Port Townsend since 2005, plays May.  The graduate of Kenyon College has been a professional actor, stage manager, director and arts administrator for more than 30 years. She and the theatre have received numerous awards.

Based in Western Washington, Emma was a professional suffrage organizer trained by Susan B. Anthony.  She believed that in order to win the vote, it was imperative to approach men in a ladylike manner: to “persuade them, convince them, argue their resistance down.” 

May, a Spokane millionaire who had struck it rich in the Idaho silver mines, thought that the way to get the vote from men was to “clap ‘em on the back, pass out cigars, and swap stories with ‘em.”

Written by Toni Douglass, “May’s Vote” has toured throughout Washington.  

In 2020, for the 19th Amendment centennial and 110th anniversary of women winning the vote in Washington state—the first suffrage victory in 14 years and a turning point in the suffrage movement, laying groundwork for passage of the national amendment—”May’s Vote” was mounted by Key City Public Theatre with a grant from the Washington State Historical Society.

Barbara and Denise planned to tour the state this year, until the pandemic hit, but like many women who fought for suffrage for decades, they persevered, and this fall began touring a virtual version of the play.

They give a brief live introduction before performing and then answer questions in a post-play discussion.

Barbara explained that in 1909,  suffrage conventions for the Washington Equal Suffrage Association and the National American Woman Suffrage Association were held back-to-back in Seattle in late June and early July.

“A Suffrage Special Train brought delegates across country for the national convention,” said Barbara.  “Those on board spent a day in Spokane, organized by May, and then continued across the state, making whistle stops in Pasco, Yakima, Ellensburg and Tacoma before arriving in Seattle.”

Barbara said that Plymouth Congregational Church hosted the state and national conventions, scheduled in conjunction with the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the University of Washington. July 7 was Suffrage Day at the exposition.

“Plymouth, with the support of many other Seattle churches and ministers, was involved in planning the conventions,” she said.

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Copyright © December 2020 - PNC-UCC News




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