On Zoom Open to all ages. Preregistration is required.
Join us for Borderland: The Life & Times of Blanche Ames Ames, a Kevin G. Friend film. Preview available here. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the writer and narrator of the film, Kate Klise, and Kevin Friend, the producer and director.
“Men always seem to have the advantages, in dress, in law, in politics—everything. Will the time ever come when it will be equally easy for a woman to exist?”
—from the 1870 diary of Blanche Butler Ames
Blanche Ames Ames (1878-1969) was an artist, an activist, a builder, an inventor, a birth control maverick, and a leader of the woman suffrage movement in Massachusetts. She was a woman of privilege who was not afraid to shock polite society. Her name doesn’t appear in most American history books. This, too, is part of her story.
Borderland is a 55-minute documentary that chronicles the life of a woman who was born in the 19th century, worked to change the 20th century, and whose wisdom still resonates in the 21st century.
Blanche Ames came from a long line of strong women and powerful men. Her grandmother, Sarah Hildreth Butler, was a popular Shakespearean actress. Her grandfather? Civil War General Benjamin Franklin Butler. Adelbert Ames, her father, was also a Union General and, later, a Reconstruction governor. But it was her mother, Blanche Butler Ames, who posed the question that would serve as the touchstone for young Blanche’s life: Will women ever have the same rights as men? For Blanche Ames, the only possible answer was yes.
Beginning with a speech she delivered to President McKinley as president of her class at Smith College (class of 1899), Blanche Ames became a leader of the woman suffrage movement in Massachusetts. She used her talents as an artist to create pro-suffrage political cartoons that both inspired and enraged. President Taft responded personally to one of her cartoons. Later, Blanche would turn her attention to reproductive rights, becoming the first president of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts in 1916. She eventually split with Margaret Sanger over the issue of eugenics.
Blanche Ames took on society’s elite, the Catholic Church, even her in-laws while advocating for women’s rights. Fortunately, she chose a partner, husband Oakes Ames, who was not related, though they shared the same last name before marriage. Oakes Ames was equally dedicated to women’s rights. Together, the couple wrote, drew, rallied, and organized, all while raising four children at their home called Borderland, now a Massachusetts state park in North Easton, Massachusetts.
This program will not be recorded.