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Historic Marker Commemorates First Vote Cast By A Woman In New York State

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A nondescript white building on Main Street in Lisle was the site of arguably the most important moment in the fight for women's suffrage. The building gives off zero signs that this is where the very first woman voted in New York State, until now. A historic marker was unveiled on Friday, commemorating the first woman to vote in a political election in New York. 

Now a storage garage, but on January 5th 1918, the Ladies of Lisle lined up outside the former Village Hall, ready to exercise their newly won right to vote. The local minister's wife, Florence Chauncey, was the first in line to vote against liquor sales in the village.

A picture of Florence Chauncey casting the historic first vote. The ballot box is believed to be the original from 1918.

"I think it's one of New York State's best kept secrets," says historian Roger Luther.

It was also a secret in Chauncey's own family. 

"When I first turned 18 and was able to vote, she asked me if I wanted to vote," remembers Chauncey's grandson Jim Vollertsen of Rochester, "She said, 'Well, that's important.'"

Grandma Florence never told him why voting was so important to her. Vollertsen found out about her historic first vote through a phone call a couple weeks ago when Roger Luther told him about the ceremony.

"We thought of her as the soft spoken leader, but never a fighter," says Vollertsen, who is one of three grandchildren who attended the ceremony, "But listening to the ceremony today, it's obvious she had to fight for this."

Three of Florence Chauncey's grandchildren unveiled the marker with their grandmother's name on it. From left to right: Janice Vollertsen, Jim Vollertsen, and Anne Nenneau.

The sign has been in the works for several months, ever since Luther discovered the building was still standing. The sign will go in the ground as soon as it thaws.

"Now that we'll have a historic marker out there, everybody will know and for generations to come," says Luther.

Chauncey's grandchildren say they want to come back to see the sign officially in its spot out front.