On the occasion of Founders Day 2020 at Bryn Mawr, award-winning writer Elaine Weiss spoke to the Upper School during a virtual convocation. Ms. Weiss is a Baltimore journalist whose book The Woman’s Hour describes the fight for women’s suffrage, which culminated in the 19th Amendment 100 years ago.
Ms. Weiss specifically reminded students that Bryn Mawr’s founders — Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Mamie Gwinn, Bessie King, Julia Rogers and M. Carey Thomas— were part of that fight and story.
“Your founders believed in the intelligence and potential of women, and put their money where their mouths were...they believed in improvements for women and American society,” Weiss said. “You are their daughters. You are the daughters of suffragists. It is your power and privilege to take us forward.”
Weiss told students that the seven-decade suffrage movement has great meaning for our nation today and has many lessons about creating fundamental change. She remarked that political change is hard and social change is slow, both taking persistence and failure “You need a plan B, C and D to get to your goal.” She also noted that racism and inequality certainly existed in the suffrage movement, and that it is important to examine our history and learn from mistakes.
“Equality does not just get established and then sustain itself,” Weiss said. “It takes work. We are very much called to do this today. Protect the vote for all citizens.”
Concluding her Founders Day talk, Weiss said, “The best way to honor your founders is, as soon as you are able, vote in every election.”
Read more about Bryn Mawr’s founders and their connection to the suffrage movement in this blog post by Archivist Claire Hruban.