100th Anniversary of the Suffrage March in Cleveland

On Friday, October 3rd, we were privileged to attend a wonderful luncheon gathering at the Gemini Center in Fairview Park in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the October 3, 1914 suffrage march down Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland and also to remember a “local legend” suffragist Ms. Josephine Saxer Irwin.
There were, at this event, all sorts of memorabilia from the early 1900’s much of it provided by Ms. Laura Loew, President of “Lost in the Past” which puts on Victorian Programs. Ms. Loew started the program by presenting a very concise history of the campaign for women’s suffrage. We introduced ourselves to her and learned that she used to work for Ms. Margaret W. Wong many years ago and has high regard for her.

We also met the two key organizers of the event who were Ms. Charlene Connors of Women of History, an organization that presents historical re-enactments, and Ms. Gloria Cipri Kemer, the owner of the Emerald Necklace Inn. Ms. Kemer and her staff treated us all to an old-fashioned afternoon pre-lunch Tea in which sandwiches and hot and iced tea were served as everyone arrived.

Ms. Roberta Sunkle of the Fairview Park Historical Society talked about Ms. Irwin who was born on March 1, 1890 in Lakewood, Ohio and went on to graduate from Western Reserve University’s School of Education. She taught kindergarten for 9 years in the Lakewood School Systerm and worked at the sufferage headquarters in Cleveland. At age 24 she was one of the leaders of the sufferage parade on October 3, 2014 in which 7,000 people marched and another 200,000 looked on as spectators.

She remained an activist for social justice for the rest of her life with a particular passion for women’s issues and peace. She lived in Fairview Park and became the first woman elected to the Fairview Park City Council where she served from 1958 to 1962. Among the organizations/causes that she took part in where the League of Women Voters, the Department of International Affairs for the Cuyahoga County League of Women, Lakewood Library Foreign Affairs Discussion Group, the National Organization for Women, and (at age 92) the nuclear freeze campaign to stop the arms race. She finally passed on September 15, 1984. The National Organization for Women and WomenSpace instituted a Josephine Irwin Award that is conferred annually in Cleveland on women who have contributed substantially to the advancement of women. Her very good friend, Ms. Lana Moresky attended this event and shared some keepsakes with all of us.

Ms. Connors re-enacted Ms. Irwin speaking about her life. She said that she was “a woman of the past bringing words of the past, hoping that they are still relevant today.” She expressed regrets that after women gained the right to vote in the early part of the last century the women’s movement waned, not knowing what to do next, until “someone lighted a candle” and called for the passage of the equal rights amendment. She also said to “look to the mistakes of the past to help solve the problems of today.”

Fairview Park Mayor Eileen A. Patton was then called forward to receive praise for “being a role model for young women of today” and was symbolically passed the torch, in the form of a candle, so that she and all of us present, could go forward in the spirit of Ms. Irwin and carry on her work. Mayor Patton presented a proclamation on behalf of Ms. Irwin which named October 4, 2014 as Josephine Saxer Irwin Day in the City of Fairview Park. Mayor Patton concluded the program by introducing Ms. Irwin’s relatives who were with us in the Gemini Center including her eldest son William who said that this day was a “delight” for him and that he was close to tears.

We shared a table with Ms. Lois Becker who has known Ms. Margaret W. Wong for 40 years; they are good friends and Ms. Becker spent time with Ms. Wong’s family when she visited Hong Kong. Also at our table were Ms. Debbie Shank whose father was a printer in Tremont who helped our good friend former Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich when he first ran for political office as a young college student with very limited campaign funds; Ms. Lin Emmons who settled in Cleveland after she immigrated to the U.S. from Canada and wrote the story of her life so that her family could appreciate their history; and Ms. Helga Kuehn who was born in Austria (Vienna, specifically) and immigrated to the United States in 1955 when she was only 6 years old.

As far as we were concerned, this program was one of inspiration and we hope that if we live to be 94 we can look back and say that we have lived as full and complete of a life as Ms. Irwin did.

The mission statement of Extended Housing in Painesville is “to support individuals with severe and persistent mental illness to live an independently as possible by creating, developing and sustaining safe, decent affordable housing options.” Our time was limited on Friday night but we still wanted to show support for this organization so we drove over to the Croatian Lodge in Eastlake to attend the 2014 Annual Talent Show and Fundraiser which was celebrated this year in an Oktoberfest style. Sure enough, we got to meet the Ms. Karen McLeod, the Executive Director of Extended Housing dressed in a beautiful Oktoberfest outfit selling raffle tickets as were several other people.

We were glad to encounter our friend, Ms. Laurie Solomon from Forbes House who told us that the reason we often see the same people helping out at Lake County events is that many times they are members of the Western Reserve Junior Service League that raises money for worthy 501C3 organizations in the community. It has been around for 50 years and has raised over a million dollars.

We also got to talk to Judge Colleen A. Falkowski, of the Domestic Relations Court about the various judicial candidates running in Lake County and got to meet Mr. John P. O’Donnell who is running for Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge. At first, we thought he was the same John O’Donnell who is running for Ohio Supreme Court but Judge Falkowski straightened us out.

We visited with Mr. Raymond C. Somich, who was acting as Master of Ceremonies, and his wife Ms. Mary Jo. Somich. Mr. Somich told us that he knows Ms. Margaret W. Wong through our friend Mr. Ratanjit S. Sondhe who he has worked with.

Among the other people that we spoke were Mr. John Konrad, the former City Manager of Mentor; Mr. Kevin Lynch of the Lake County Development Council; Mr. Nate Bell of Lake County Young Professionals; Mr. Ernie Brass who we see all over; and Mr. Chris Chample and Mr. CJ Mio of Today’s Business Products. Mr. Mio told us how, at one time, he volunteered to help people who were still struggling with the English language fill out their tax forms so he can appreciate what people go through when they immigrated to the United States from other countries.

On our way out we found out that this event had over 360 RSVP’s so we are glad to say that it looked like it was on its way to success.