Without A Whisper.jpg

Mohawk Bear Clan Mother Louise Herne and Professor Sally Roesch Wagner in a still from “Without A Whisper - Konnon:Kwe” by filmmaker Katsitsionni Fox. The film uncovers the hidden history of the profound influence of Indigenous women had on the beginnings of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

AUSABLE CHASM — The Women's Suffrage movement emerged from the Abolitionist movement, which sought to abolish the enslavement of people of African descent in the United States.

“They were sort of joined in a sense,” Jacqueline Madison, president of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, said.

“It made it important that we need to tell the full story of the Abolitionist movement. That it wasn't just totally about freeing the slaves, but it was also to give women their rights, not just white women, but all women.



“So really, the Abolitionist movement was trying to make citizens of everyone. Everyone needed to be seen equally as a citizen whether they were male or female, Black, white or any other ethnicity.”

The Association illuminates an often overlooked component of the Suffrage movement in the afternoon segment of today's Champlain Valley Suffrage Centennial Auto Tour at the Ausable Chasm Pavilion from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“There is a perception that non-white women were not actively involved in the Suffrage movement, that it was empowered mostly by whites, but that was not true,” Madison said.

“The whites actually got their understanding of women's rights from the Iroquois, who actually had, I say, equal rights and in some cases more equal rights than the men, in the sense that they (Clan Mothers) actually chose the chiefs, which was something that most cultures did not do. It was considered a man's world.”

MODELED ON Haudenosaunee

Suffragists modeled their movement on the freedoms they saw exhibited by women of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Long House).

“Our program will be focused on the nonwhites, the people of color, as they like to term it,” Madison said.

“We will also showcase a fabulous painting by John Fadden, who is a very talented artist. He is Mohawk, and he has provided us with an art piece called WomanKind.”

Complementary programming includes a screening of "Without A Whisper -Konnon:Kwe" a documentary by filmmaker Katsitsionni Fox of Akwesasne.

“I created this film because I wanted it to be included in this history of Indigenous women's contributions to this movement,” Fox said.

“Myself, my background, I'm an educator. I've been teaching for 20 years, and I know the lack of material and the lack of perspective that are included in history books even today. So another way to go at that was creating this documentary film that can be used in classrooms to show how Haudenosaunee women influenced the women's rights movement and to bring our story out of the shadows and out of invisibility so that it can be seen and heard."


The film follows Mohawk Bear Clan Mother Louise Herne and Professor Sally Roesch Wagner as they seek to correct the historical narrative about the origins of women’s rights in the United States.

Maxine Perry will emcee today's program, which includes Madison as anti-lynching advocate Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, re-enactor Robin Caudell as the under-the-radar Portia Spennie Blackiston and Akwesasne actress Jazzy Dunn as women's club founder and champion-of-the-poor Helen Appo Cook.

Cook's father, noted musician William Appo, purchased land from abolitionist Gerrit Smith in his Black settlement of Timbuctoo in North Elba.

Association Vice-President John Mitchell will provide tech support including a soundscape with music by Francis Johnson, Cook's famous composer uncle, in an Indictus Project video performance by Donald Allen Lee III (Ryan Opera Center conductor/pianist).


A program highlight features vocalists Barbara Criss, association treasurer, and Dunn's cover of Mamie Smith's “Crazy Blues,” which was recorded August 10, 1920.

The program includes selections from “Herstory: Turning the World Right-Side Up,” featuring suffragist-era music recorded by Derckh Hatzafon (Sounds of the Northway) in 2000.

Retractable banners featuring images of Black, Asian and Hispanic suffragists and women's rights activists were designed by artist/photographer Nicole Caudell.

“I felt that for the Underground Railroad Association, our story is tell the story of those who used this route to come through, many of them of minority ethnicities,” Madison said.

“We really should focus on those groups of people."

Email Robin Caudell:



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