Dollhouse Museum reopens with focus on suffrage movement

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BENNINGTON — The Dollhouse and Toy Museum of Vermont has reopened with a new exhibit devoted to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The exhibit has many dolls dressed in suffragist costumes, which tended to be jackets, long white skirts and very large hats, with banners draped over their shoulders saying "Votes for Women!".

It also has a collection of four "Wives of the Presidents" dolls that include three who couldn't vote for their husbands (Martha Washington, Dolly Madison and Mary Todd Lincoln) and one (Grace Goodhue Coolidge) who could. And it has a collection of "Famous American Women" dolls that includes Clara Barton, the Civil War nurse who founded the American Red Cross; Harriett Beecher Stowe, the abolitionist who wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin"; and Mary Cassatt, the talented artist who grew up and studied art in Philadelphia but spent most of her working life in France, where she became friends with Edgar Degas and other Impressionists and staged exhibits to raise money for suffrage causes..

Vermont had a chance to be the state to ratify the 19th Amendment, but Percival Clement, the Republican governor, refused to call the legislature back into session to do it. So it was Tennessee that ended up being the 36th state to approve the amendment, which became law on August 26, 1920.

Clement, a Rutland native who owned banks, railroads and three New York City hotels, was a strong opponent of prohibition and opposed the suffrage movement because it was tied so closely to the temperance movement, which he also opposed.

Featured prominently in the exhibit are Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who worked together for Women's Suffrage for fifty years but died before women were given the vote.

"Actually, women in Vermont could vote in school board elections and local elections," said Jackie Marro, the owner and curator of the Dollhouse Museum. "And they could serve as town treasurers and notaries public. But they couldn't vote in state or federal elections, and there wasn't a single woman in the state legislature. So the 19th Amendment changed women's lives in major ways, and we're happy to celebrate this important event."

The Dollhouse and Toy Museum, which is located at 212 Union St. in Bennington, is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4. As is the case in all public places in Vermont, visitors must practice social distancing and wear anti-virus masks.

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