Frock the vote: Coney Island exhibit uncovers the suffragette movement

History lesson: Denny Daniel will present more than 50 antique items — including dresses, photos, and 1920 voting ballots — at “Suffragette City” in Coney Island.
Denny Daniel

He’s got all the history you can handle!

A local historian and antique collector will present a hands-on exploration of the fight to give women the vote, at the Coney Island Museum on Aug. 31. During his hour-long “Suffragette City” lecture, Denny Daniel — who runs the traveling exhibition the Museum of Interesting Things — will combine stories about early feminists with more than 50 historic items that the audience can hold, including newspapers from the turn of the 20th century, photos, ballot books with the names of the first women voters, and a vintage voting booth from the election of President Warren G. Harding. Daniel says that the highlight of the collection is his wardrobe of vintage dresses.

“I love the dresses. I’m probably going to have someone try them on,” he said.

During his presentation, Daniel will pass around a gray, plain frock that British feminists wore in the early 20th century, a white dress common among American suffragettes, and a corseted gown called a “bustle dress” that was a staple for the era — and that feminists loathed.

“The bustle dress is a size negative one,” Daniel joked — he has never seen someone fit into its tiny frame.

His many vintage treasures enliven the history of the women’s suffrage movement, and demonstrate how it intersected with other social movements of the time. The buttons, ribbons, and postcards also advocate for civil rights and alcohol prohibition — two campaigns that many suffragettes took part in.

“The movements were all intertwined, and it was in the women’s best interest to fight for all three of them,” Daniel explained. Support for the temperance movement often came from women who suffered domestic violence at the hands of drunken husbands, he added.

“Suffragette City” is one of Daniel’s many traveling exhibitions. Daniel has also presented his vast collection of memorabilia to school children and history buffs in the service of lectures about the 1960s space race, the history of film, and more. Daniel says that his passion for history and his love for teaching drove him to found the traveling museum.

“It’s to get people back to being curious and positive again,” he said. “It’s to bring back that curiosity that we all grew up with.”

“Suffragette City” at Coney Island Museum (1208 Surf Ave., second floor, at W. 12th Street, (718) 372–5159, www.coneyisland.com). Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. $10.

Reach reporter Rose Adams at radams@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–8306. Follow her on Twitter @rose_n_adams
Suffragette kitty: One of the vintage postcards Denny Daniel will display at his “Suffragette City” lecture depicts a stylish kitty advocating for women’s voting rights.
Denny Daniel

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