AUBURN | A lot can happen in 101 years.

And Emily Howland, one of Sherwood's most famous residents, lived through some of the United States' most formative moments — such as the Civil War and the women's suffrage movement.

But Howland was not a passive participant in history. Instead, the devout Quaker and Cayuga County native actively campaigned for the equality of all, working as an educator, a philanthropist, an abolitionist and, finally, a suffragist.

On Saturday, Patricia White, of the Howland Stone Store Museum, spent part of the afternoon presenting "Emily Howland and the Suffrage Movement in Cayuga County" to attendees at Seymour Library. Although she gave an overview of Howland's colorful history, White mainly focused on Howland's work fighting for women's right to vote — a topic that coincided perfectly with Women's History Month.

White started of the talk by explaining a bit about how Slocum Howland, Emily Howland's father, raised his children.

"He passed on to them the idea that everyone should have equal rights," White said. "And they lived that."

After Howland earned her education, White said the Sherwood woman headed to Washington, D.C., where she taught African American girls. She found her niche in education, eventually opening up schools in both New York and Virginia.

But White said Howland discovered part of her life's work at the beginning of the Civil War when she visited a contraband camp full of free slaves who wanted to fight for freedom. Howland worked transform the camp, which she found in "deplorable" conditions, into a healthier place.

"That was the start of her work," White said. "She finally found the place she belonged."

Howland was far from a latecomer to the women's rights movement.

White said Howland first met Susan B. Anthony in 1851, and maintained a close friendship with the woman throughout her life. Although her sympathies always remained with the fight for equality, Howland started to get more heavily involved in the national movement for suffrage in 1891.

That year, Howland started the Cayuga County Political Equality Club, and organization. White said the politically active group, housed on Auburn's Exchange Street, was comprised of both men and women who carried around and collected petitions.

And although women didn't earn their final goal until 1920, White said Howland and her colleagues won small victories along with way — such as the right for men and women to share joint legal custody of their children, and finally changing the law to allow women to inherit property from their husbands.

But eventually, the petitions, speeches and marches paid off. And in at age 92, Emily Howland headed to polls and, for the first time, legally cast her vote.

"I think she's a woman who chose to make a difference, and she actually did it," White said. "I think we're all, male or female, better off for it."

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter at Citizen_House.

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