Sarah Elizabeth Birdsall Otis Edey

(1872–1940) A woman born into the spotlight to political parents, Sarah was considered a socialite and activist; she used her platform for purpose, serving as an officer in a number of county and state suffrage organizations and was most notably recognized for her lifelong work with the Girl Scouts of America.

In June 1916, she served on the reception committee for the annual Suffrage County Suffrage Convention in Riverhead, NY. In January of 1917, she and several other women prominent in the suffrage movement attended the opening of the state legislature in Albany and witnessed the introduction of a resolution favoring the resubmission of the ‘votes for women' proposal to the voters of the state next November.

On September 14, 1917, Sarah hosted the Campaign Conference of the New York State Woman Suffrage Party of Suffolk County at her family summer home in Near-the-bay in Bellport, Long Island. The delegates celebrated having enrolled 15,005 women for suffrage in the county. Edey announced that, "We must not fail to bring home to the voters of this county the fact that such a tremendous sentiment for Suffrage exists among their own women. We have enrolled almost as many women as the combined vote for and against Suffrage in 1915. We have the indisputable argument in the fact that they want Suffrage to a number as large as the combined 'yeas' and 'nays' of the men in 1915.”

In a 1917 letter to the editor of the East Hampton Star, Sarah chastised the women picketing President Wilson and bemoaned that their “misguided doings” be “laid on the shoulders of all Suffragists.” She spoke at a rally in Mt. Vernon that same month and “emphasized the need for persistent, systematic work on the part of every suffragist, saying that New York state may be won over to exhibit the spectacle of democracy that will inspire the sons of American women in the trenches abroad.”

After women acquired the vote in New York State, Sarah was active in the League of Women Voters, serving as chair of the intelligence committee of the NYS League. She is reported as stating that she had learned three things during the successful campaign for women's suffrage in New York: “how to organize groups to do a special piece of work; to speak in public; to get along with people.” Sarah also realized that women for whom she had worked to acquire the vote, “were not ready for their enfranchisement, that people needed to be trained to be citizens early in life.” (Bio courtesy of alexanderstreet.com)

Woodland Cemetery

193 Bellport Avenue, Bellport, NY 11713

Suffolk County

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This program was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

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