Long Island is deep rooted in history, this month, we celebrate Woman’s History Month. From the suffrage movement to women pioneers and saving the Montauk Lighthouse, find out HERstory and learn more about groundbreaking women on Long Island who have contributed to life today and are paving paths for the future.
The Founder of Newsday
Alicia Patterson launched Newsday in September 1940, despite her father firing her from being a reporter at the New York Daily News and told her a tabloid would not be successful on Long Island. Newsday won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954, became the country’s largest suburban magazine and helped shape the identity of Long Island.
First Female Eagle Scouts
Just this year, three Long Island teens were among the nation’s first female Eagle Scouts. This accomplishment is the highest rank in the program and achieved by only 6% of all scouts. Three teens from Troop 186 of Wantagh worked for two years to receive the honor. Learn more about the accomplishments here.
Saving the Montauk Lighthouse
Over 40 years ago, Giorgina Reid saved the Long Island landmark as we know it today, the Montauk Lighthouse. The Coast Guard was ordered to abandon the lighthouse. On Earth Day in 1970, Giorgina, came out with her husband and volunteers from Rocky Point to do plantings on the cliff face of the Montauk Lighthouse in an effort to stop the erosion. In 1985, there was a tribute to Giorgina for her efforts and a letter written by President Ronald Regan of her courage. 15 years later, Reid and her volunteers saved the lighthouse from falling into the sea. Learn more here.
Elinor Smith Sullivan, a pioneering aviator, went by the nickname of the “Flying Flapper of Freeport”. She flew her first plane at 6 years old and became the youngest licensed pilot at age 16 in 1927. Sullivan was named as the Best Female pilot in the US by the American Society for the Promotion of Aviation in 1930 at just 19 years old.
Barbara McClintock, an American Scientist and Nobel Prize-Winning Geneticist, worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1940. She studied chromosomes and how they changed during reproduction in corn. McClintock was met with a lot of skepticism from male scientists, so she stopped publishing her data. She wasn’t recognized for her work until she was 81 years old when she won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of genetic transposition.
Joan Whitney Payson, was a prominent heiress and businesswoman who lived in Manhasset. As cofounder and owner of the Mets, she served as the team president until 1975.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Harriot Stanton Blatch are mother and daughter duo who had summer homes in Shoreham and were key players in both the Suffrage and Abolitionist movements in New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is the author of the “Declaration of Sentiments” which expanded on the Declaration of Independence. Harriot then founded the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women and organized the 1910 New York suffrage parade.
You can visit Mary Louise Booth’s childhood home, The “Booth House” on Main St. in Yaphank. Booth served as a founding editor of Harper’s Bazar magazine, received letters from Abraham Lincoln and helped bring the Statue of Liberty to NY. Booth acted as a translator between Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (the French sculptor/creator of the Statue of Liberty) and government officials in New York.
Ida Bunce Sammis, born in Cold Spring Harbor, organized the first Women’s Suffrage club in Suffolk County, was the President of the Equality League and is one of the first two assembly women elected to the New York State Legislature in 1918.
You can find a statue in Cold Spring Harbor State Park dedicated to honoring Rosalie Gardiner Jones who was known as “the General” for organizing state-wide marches. She led two marches- the first from NYC to Albany where she led over 200 women over 175 miles in 13 days in December 1912 through bitter cold. The second was to the White house in March 1913 before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.