Three high school juniors from Charles Finney School got a crash course in the history of women’s rights in America, and now they’re sharing this knowledge with their peers.
Cassandra Kenville of Henrietta, Abigail Johnson and Courtney Puzio, both of Webster, will give speeches to their fellow classmates during a field trip at the National Women’s Rights Museum in Seneca Falls on Friday, Oct. 19.
History teacher Peter Burch selected the girls, who had the three highest scores in their global studies class, at the end of last school year. They now take advanced placement American history.
Each will speak at Wesleyan Chapel, where Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass spoke during the first women’s rights convention.
Their speeches will address topics like women’s suffrage, the impact of labor unions on domestic life, and how women’s struggles in the early 20th century helped pave the way for women today.
Puzio said she was amazed to see how different life was for women before the Nineteenth Amendment gave them the right to vote in 1922.
“Women in the 1920s were expected to stay home and watch the kids all day, and their husband was the only one who could work and bring home a paycheck,” she said. “Now women are able to support themselves and bring their own money to the table.”
She also learned that more women are enrolled in American colleges than men, unlike the days when women weren’t even allowed to attend college.
When women starting working in factories, the structure of the home also changed.
“Women were expected to raise the kids, tend the animals, cook all the meals and pull these crazy work hours for very little money,” said Johnson. “They were still seen as inferior.”
She admires their endurance.
“When they did what they did, it took a lot of strength and endurance, and I’m hoping to expose that in my speech... When you think about it, they probably did more work than their husband back then.”
Today it’s a different story, whether it’s opportunities at home, in the workplace or in the voting booth. Kenville said that learning about women’s struggles of the past helps inspire women of all ages to look back at their example with pride.
“I thought it was cool to see how hard they fought for their cause,” she said.
Their presentations will be open to the public.