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Discovering New York Suffrage Stories

The latest, NY Emmy-nominated WNED PBS original production is a 30-minute television documentary that tells the story of the important events and women in New York, some well-known and others unrecognized, that contributed to the women’s rights movement.

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Women began their battle for the vote in Central and Western New York in the mid-1800s. This part of the upstate region was an epicenter of reform, tackling societal issues like abolition, religion, temperance, and women’s rights.

photos of Matilda Joslyn Gage, Paulina Wright Davis, Mary Burnett Talbert and Hester Whitehurst Jeffrey

The movement’s success depended on thousands of women, but today, many of their stories are absent from the history. Discovering New York Suffrage Stories introduces us to Matilda Joslyn Gage, Paulina Wright Davis, Mary Burnett Talbert and Hester Whitehurst Jeffrey, a few of the diverse suffragists who tirelessly navigated issues of religious intolerance, sexism, politics, and racism as they fought for the vote and for women’s equality.



Original Production


February 1, 2021


Watch the Trailer

Discovering New York Suffrage StoriesTrailer | Discovering New York Suffrage Stories
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Independent Female Filmmakers Explore the Suffrage Story
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To complement the stories featured in the documentary, WNED PBS commissioned a series of digital video essays by independent female producer/filmmakers. These short films provide an opportunity for the filmmakers to tell an important story and contribute their unique perspective and insight into the suffrage story.

New York’s Role in the Suffrage Movement

The earliest days of the women’s rights movement and the fight for suffrage can be traced to the state of New York.

It was the 1840’s and New York was regarded nationally as a paragon of progress. Home to seven of the nation’s thirty largest cities, the state reaped the rewards of a developed rail system and the economic opportunities for trade and transportation along the Erie Canal. But progress wasn’t all economic -- Western New York was a center for progressive social causes, including abolition and temperance. After years of lobbying on the part of New York women, it was one of the the first states in the nation to give women control over their own property. All these factors set the stage for the fight for suffrage, formally beginning in 1848 at a convention to discuss women’s rights held in Seneca Falls, New York. This historic event produced a Declaration of Sentiments, a political manifest demanding civil rights for women, including the vote.

Suffrage parade in Niagara Square in Buffalo, NY, c. 1913.
Library of Congress
Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown, N.Y.
Miss Edith Ainge, of Jamestown, N.Y., who served sixty days in the government jail and workhouse for picketing the White House with a suffrage banner.
Library of Congress
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Major support for Discovering New York Suffrage Stories was provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, by the Susan Howarth Foundation, and KeyBank in partnership with First Niagara Foundation. With additional funding from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation and Humanities New York.