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Rita Rothberg discusses Women’s Suffrage at Atlantic Cape on International Women’s Day

03/09/2022 | Media Contact: Claire Sylvester | (609) 343-4933
Cape May County Clerk Rita Rothberg giving her presentation on women's suffrage

From local suffragists like Dille Hastings and Katherine Hand to national icons like Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cape May County Clerk Rita Rothberg detailed the history of the women’s suffrage movement during a presentation Tuesday, March 8 at Atlantic Cape Community College Cape May County campus.

“The women’s rights movement was the offspring of abolition,” Rothberg told the room of 16 attendees in-person and 35 attending virtually. “In the service of anti-slavery, women found their voices.”

The discussion – held on International Women’s Day – was the kick-off event to Atlantic Cape hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” exhibition at its Mays Landing campus this summer.

Rothberg’s presentation, “The Voice is our Vote: Cape May County and Suffrage,” focused on suffragists in Cape May County. It was researched through public records including historical local newspapers.

The presentation included discussion on how advancements like the railroad helped pave the way for the suffrage movement to plant roots in Cape May County, and how the temperance movement, which sought the prohibition of alcohol, was directly tied to suffrage.  

“It was an incredible experience to get to know what was happening here in Cape May County when suffrage was a big topic in the United States,” Rothberg said.

She said she particularly was fascinated by how long the process took, and by the dedication of the supporters of women’s suffrage.

“They believed it and they just dedicated their lives to it,” Rothberg said.

Dr. Denise Coulter, Dean of Professional and Liberal Studies at Atlantic Cape, who is organizing the “Voices and Votes” programming, said she was captivated by the information in Rothberg’s presentation, and grateful to Rothberg for bringing that history to the college.

“Voices and Votes” programming has been made possible at Atlantic Cape Community College by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Atlantic Cape plans to host several panel discussions and guest speakers monthly until the summer exhibition opens.

The next event will feature Dr. David Blake from The College of New Jersey to discuss poet Walt Whitman, who was an influential voice in American culture, but whose legacy is now being reconsidered against modern ideals.

 “Voting is one of the greatest rights we have as citizens, and too often we take it for granted,” Coulter said. “I want this exhibit and the related events to give our constituencies an opportunity to understand the history and the sacrifices our ancestors made to create and sustain the democracy we know. If our work here inspires someone to become more engaged in the democratic process by registering to vote or to show up to the polls on election day or expressing their view during the public forum of a municipal meeting, then we accomplished our goals.”

View Rothberg's presentation on Atlantic Cape's YouTube channel.

Cape May County Clerk Rita Rothberg presents on women's suffrage at Atlantic Cape Community College

Cape May County Clerk Rita Rothberg presents on women's suffrage at Atlantic Cape Community College

Walt Whitman’s complicated American Voice

Dr. David Blake from The College of New Jersey will present a discussion on poet Walt Whitman’s modern legacy at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 21 in room H116 at the Mays Landing campus, 5100 E. Black Horse Pike. The presentation will be streamed live via Zoom at https://atlantic-edu.zoom.us/j/94460023867.
Blake is an English Professor teaching courses in 19th and 20th Century U.S. Literature and Connections Between Politics and Literature. Blake is the author of “Walt Whitman and the Culture of Celebrity” (Yale) and the co-editor of “Walt Whitman, Where the Future Becomes Present” (Iowa).

For more information on this presentation or “Voices and Votes,” contact Denise Coulter at dcoulter@atlantic.edu.

About ‘Voices and Votes’

The “Voices and Votes” exhibition examines the nearly 250-year-old American experiment of a government “of, by and for the people,” and how each generation since continues to question how to form “a more perfect union.”

The display includes historical and contemporary photos, educational and archival video, engaging multimedia interactives with short games, and historical objects like campaign souvenirs, voter memorabilia, and protest material.

“Voices and Votes” is based on an exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith.” It is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

To learn more, visit museumonmainstreet.org.