Perth Amboy’s 1st female mayor pays homage to the women who paved the way
As the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Women's suffrage movement, Perth Amboy’s first female mayor pays homage to the women who paved the way.
On the week that the 19th Amendment was ratified, which granted women the right to vote in 1920, a front-page headline in the Perth Amboy Evening News asked what was then a fantastical question: “Will the city have a lady mayor?”
Today, 100 years later, a larger-than-life copy of that front page sits in the City Hall office of Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz.
“If I was back in that time I would say, ‘Hey, you know, it happened – 100 years later I’m here.’ And ‘Thank you. Thank you for what you did,’” Diaz says.
The article was discovered five years ago by a city librarian. Friends of Diaz had it enlarged, along with another article from the 19th Amendment’s 40th anniversary in 1960, describing the unexpected surge of women registering to vote when the city opened registration that year.
“They underestimated the women at the time. The article quotes women on line to register, asking what kind of issues concerned them, speculating how their voices and votes will change the political landscape,” says Diaz.
Diaz says that she was amazed to find out how many women in Perth Amboy fought to have the right to vote. She keeps the posters close at hand to remember the fight that those women had for equality and for her to be in the office that she has held since 2008 – the first in a long line of mayors to finally fulfill that question asked in the headline a century ago.
“We owe it to those women, that they had the vision that one day they would like to see a woman mayor. But not just that. They fought for the right to vote and that movement in Perth Amboy. It’s incredible. Incredible, not just what they did then, but also how their struggle continues to inspire now,” Diaz says.