OCEAN COUNTY – Can you remember a time when voting was not allowed equally by everyone? Most people were born after the time where people fought for equal rights to vote.
Over 100 years ago, the suffrage moment was in full swing. Activists and reformers were fighting to give women the right to vote. Women such as Alice Paul, Antoinette Brown Blackwell and Susan B. Anthony all played a crucial part in making history and granting women the right to vote.
Ocean County celebrated the 100th anniversary of New Jersey’s ratification of the 19th Amendment in the historic courtroom of the Ocean County Courthouse.
Ocean County Clerk Scott M. Colabella was the chief coordinator of the event, and presented the speakers and the four Ocean County women who were being honored during the evening.
“As an elected Constitutional Officer in Ocean County, I am honored to coordinate this important program recognizing the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution granting women the right to vote,” Colabella said.
Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director and liaison to the Ocean County Clerk’s Office Gary Quinn was the first speaker of the night. Quinn dove into the significance of the anniversary and thanked the women of Ocean County for what they do. “Your strengths, your character and your hard work are all qualities that make you tremendous goals for all women in the county,” Quinn said.
The New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way delivered a speech on how this movement paved the way for women today. She discussed how our democracy is stronger when everyone participates, and encouraged everyone to vote for every election. “Voting is the floor, not the ceiling,” Way expressed. She also stated that “we are still an unfinished book, and women are still fighting for rights today.”
Timothy Hart, an Ocean County Historian, gave a short historical presentation about the important turning point in history. He said that prior to the Amendment, New Jersey held a referendum in 1915 to see if the state should allow women to vote. Ocean County was the only county that was for women’s right to vote.
The main portion of the program was recognizing and honoring four women in Ocean County who perform essential roles in public service.
State Superior Court Assignment Judge Marlene Lynch Ford was the first woman to serve as Assignment Judge in Ocean County – the chief judicial officer – and was the first woman to serve as Prosecutor in Ocean County and also one of six women elected from Ocean County to serve in the State Legislature. She encouraged all women to run for office. “Don’t be afraid to run, even if you lose,” Ford said.
Ocean County Freeholder Virginia E. Haines is the second woman only to be elected to the Board of Freeholders in the county’s history and was the director of the Board in 2019. She voiced how women are the backbone for today’s voting rights.
“Everyone gets to enjoy the right to vote because of women,” Haines said. She also stated how in this past election, 56 percent of the votes were women.
Ocean County Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove is the sixth woman to represent Ocean County in the State Legislature. As a retired history teacher, she said it’s important that women hold political posts and thanked the women of the suffrage movement for paving the way for women today.
Lastly, Barbara Lanuto was honored as she is the first woman to serve as Ocean County’s deputy county clerk. She concluded the night by reviewing that out of 203 municipal seats in Ocean County, 44 of them are women and only three are serving as mayor.
“We have made great strides as women in Ocean County throughout the years serving as municipal elective officials, but we still have a long way to go,” Lanuto said.