2020 marks the 100th anniversaries of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote and the founding of the League of Women Voters. The League of Women Voters of Ridgefield (LWVR) is the proud owner of an important, visible symbol of the women’s suffrage movement —a “Votes for Women” banner which dates to 1911. A card sewn into the corner of the banner reads: “Please return to Mrs. William Hanford Allee, Property of the Ridgefield E.F.L (Equal Franchise League). Laura Allee was a leading Ridgefield suffragist, original member of the Ridgefield League of Women Voters and the caretaker of this banner.
According to information from “Remember the Ladies, Notable Women of Ridgefield,” in 1911 Mrs. Allee and 19 other Ridgefield women formed a local Equal Franchise League and in July of 1911 Laura was asked to chair the 24th Senatorial District and organize an Equal Franchise League to incorporate the towns of Ridgefield, Danbury, Redding, Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield and Sherman. Members of the League held various activities to draw attention to the suffrage cause including “parlor” meetings, town hall meetings, “street corner speeches” and marches holding banners or sitting on floats in parades. One of Mrs. Allee’s most unique and amusing suffrage appearances campaigning for the right to vote was at the intermission of a traveling dog show. Taking the place of the performing dogs, Mrs. Allee with 12 of her fellow suffragists (including Ridgefielder Mary Olcott) took the stage holding a “long banner” that read “Votes for Women.” As Mrs. Allee said in her book “Memories”: “Instead of thirteen dogs taking the curtain call, there were thirteen women with our flaming banner … No one could doubt the earnestness of our purpose, and some eyes were wet.” It is probable that the banner they held was the very same 11’9” by 3’ “Votes for Women” banner currently being cared for by the LWVR and originally owned by Mrs. Allee and the Equal Franchise League.