Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Great War: May 8, 1917

Not only was 1917 the year the United States entered the Great War in Europe, it was also the year women won the right to vote in New York. Although the news suggests the people of Hudson were preoccupied with wartime readiness, the suffrage movement soldiered on. On May 8, 1917, the Hudson Evening Register reported on a suffrage meeting that took place in Hudson.

An interesting meeting of the Woman's Suffrage party of this city was held last night at the residence of Mrs. William I. Gray on Green street. Several important communications from the New York headquarters were read and discussed at length.
It was decided to order a number of suffrage buttons which will be worn by those members of the Suffrage party who assist in the taking of the military census in Columbia county. It was also decided to obtain a large and attractive poster to be placed in some conspicuous place, thus signifying that the suffrage campaign has not been abandoned.
An eloquent address was made by Miss Katherine Dodd, of Boston, who is assisting the County Home Defense committee in its work in Columbia county. She stated that the existing troublesome times and the war situation had taken precedence over many propagandas, and as a result many persons may be laboring under the impression that the suffrage campaign is either at a standstill or has been given up. Such is not the case, however, Miss Dowd declared. . . .  
Several significant incidents, tending to show that the concerted efforts of suffragettes is being appreciated were pointed out in a very comprehensive manner by the speaker.
She declared that this State has asked the service of a widely known suffrage organizer to work with the attorney general in getting the men's and women's clubs to co-operate with the government coincident with the war.
The house where the suffrage party met that evening in May was 95 Green Street, where, in 1917, Susanna McKinstry Gray lived with her husband, William, the youngest of their three children, and her widowed sister Nellie McKinstry Hankes.

William Gray, the son of Rensselaer Gray, was the proprietor of R. Gray's Sons furniture store, which on March 8, 1902, suffered a disastrous fire. A newspaper account of the fire, which came to be known as "Gray's Fire," declared: "It was a fire that for fierceness has probably never been equalled in this city." The picture below appeared the next day in the Columbia Republican.

The Columbia Republican recounts William Gray's actions during the fire, although it erroneously identifies him as William R. not William I.
William R. Gray, one of the members of the firm of R. Gray's Sons, went into his furniture store at this stage of the fire to save something, and as he emerged one of the large plate glass windows on the second story cracked with heat and fell, and he barely escaped being hit with the big jagged pieces of heavy glass that fell to the pavement and broke into fragments. 
The crowd that gathered in Warren street now fell back, the trolley wire was cut, and everybody in the vicinity began to make preparations to move out. The heat of the flames as they sprang outward melted the electric light and telephone wires in short order and down they fell on the heads of the people, who scrambled again to get further away. The jingle of falling glass was now heard across the street, and one after another the window panes cracked and fell to the sidewalk from the upper stories of the buildings. The heat got more intense and crash followed crash, as one after another the plate glass windows in the Farmers' Bank building and the stores east of it began to break and fall. The scene was an awful one, and at this time it began to look as if the whole block to the east would be swept by fire.
The building where R. Gray's Sons had their furniture store was rebuilt after the fire. Both before the fire and after the fire, the store was located at 547-549 Warren Street, in the building that is now Stair Galleries. The first picture below shows the building in 1905, three years after the fire. The second picture shows the building today.


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