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Activist Talbert remembered on centennial of women's suffrage in N.Y.

Yellow rose petals blanketed a patch of green grass at the grave of a suffragist and civil rights activist in Forest Lawn on Tuesday morning after a ceremony to mark 100 years since women won the right to vote in New York State.

The flower petals accompanied a few bouquets that leaned on the headstone of Mary Burnett Talbert, remembered by elected officials and members of the public who gathered at the cemetery.

After the Election Day ceremony, two "I voted" stickers were placed on Talbert's gravestone. One of them was placed there by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who leads the state's Women's Suffrage Commission.

A referendum on women's voting rights passed in New York in 1917, three years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote across the United States.

Hochul said women today still face challenges, including getting paid the same as men for the same work, encountering barriers when running for elected office and dealing with sexual harassment.

Those who fought for women's rights in the past should be honored, but people should consider how this era of society will be remembered 100 years from now, Hochul said.

"What will they say about us?" she asked the crowd of about 40 people, most of whom were women. "How will we have advanced the lives of women in a positive way?"

Re-enactor Mary Craig of Buffalo portrayed Talbert at the event, encouraging those in attendance to vote and trying to impress upon those gathered the importance of suffrage.

"If there is one message I would love to leave with you today it is no matter how privileged you feel you may be, always remember the people there who don't have that voice," Craig said, as Talbert. "Always remember the people that don't understand the power of a vote."


While playing the role of Talbert, Craig asked the crowd if they had voted yet.

Talbert was born in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1866 and graduated from Oberlin College at age 19. An educator, she married and moved to Buffalo in 1891 and played an instrumental role in the founding of the Niagara Movement, a precursor to the NAACP.

Talbert founded the Christian Culture Club at the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, served as a nurse in France during World War I and helped found the Phyllis Wheatley Club, the first Buffalo organization to affiliate with the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs.

She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2005. Talbert Hall at the University at Buffalo is named for her.

A plaque marking her gravesite was erected in Forest Lawn in 2006.

Landmarks across the state and locally, including Buffalo City Hall, the Peace Bridge and other buildings, were to be lit in purple and gold on Monday and Tuesday to mark the centennial of women's suffrage in the state.

Representatives of the League of Women Voters, the Women's TAP Fund and other organizations were also on hand for the ceremony.

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