Langley marks centennials with living history

Visitors may think they have stepped into a time machine, as the suffragettes will march at 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown Langley.

More than 35 women practice suffragette battle songs at the fairgrounds last Sunday. They will sing original suffragette songs as they march through Langley Saturday. The suffragette march is written and directed by Bob Waterman

Visitors may think they have stepped into a time machine, as the suffragettes will march at 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown Langley.

A one-of-a-kind street theater will celebrate the women who fought for women’s right to vote. It’s all part of Langley’s ongoing centennial celebration.

The event is the brainchild of Langley historian Bob Waterman. Waterman wanted to commemorate the fight women put up in their struggle for the vote. As Langley turns 100 in 2013, it has also been 100 years since the suffragettes marched on Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913.

Langley resident Sharen Heath is one of the suffragettes. She participates for the fun, but also because it celebrates the trailblazers that paved the way.

“It’s utterly impossible for me to understand a culture just 100 years ago — my grandmother’s generation  that denied half its adult population the right to vote, yet, that was most of America in 1913,” she said. “It puts more recent rights movements, such as civil rights and marriage equality, into clearer perspective. No one should have to fight for basic human rights, yet people do. And thank God they win!”

Women will gather on Second Street and Anthes Avenue and march through the historic downtown core Saturday morning. They will gather at Whale Bell (Hladky) park for a rally headed by fictional leader Hetty Maxwell, better known as South Whidbey writer and actress Patricia Duff.

“The fictitious character of Hetty Maxwell was created for me by Langley historian Bob Waterman, who wrote a speech for Hetty culled from the actual writings of many of the most famous suffragettes of the period,” Duff said. “I’m honored to speak such important and powerful words and to be a part of something that remembers the good fight of those women who risked everything so that all women would always have the right to vote.” Bob Thurmond photo | Robin Obata and other suffragettes practiced for the march at the fairgrounds.

Waterman also penned “Langley Life, 1890-1980,” that kicked off the centennial celebration. His latest effort presents a captivating history lesson that also has tender and touching moments. It also captures the power that fueled the suffragette movement. Just as in 1913, the women will encounter some opposition along the way in form of a group of male hecklers.

There will be costumes, banners and songs from a 1909 suffragette songbook.

The modern day women of Langley have gotten into the spirit and preparations have been under way for weeks. More than 35 women will be in the main parade, while more actors and behind-the-scenes helpers have worked on putting the event together. Kathleen Landel has coordinated the women and Peggy Juve has created flags and banners and other props.

Audience participation is welcome.

All weekend, Langley is celebrating the women who make us strong — past and present, mothers and daughters. In honor of Langley’s Centennial, the city has come together to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend in style.

“This will be a warm and sentimental weekend, yet loaded with fun and spunk as the suffragettes march,” said Janet Ploof, president of Langley Main Street Association. “Our 100th birthday is a good time to honor the suffragettes and women and mothers of today who continue to inspire.”

In addition to the suffragettes, women will be celebrated at a special tea on Sunday.

Ott & Murphy’s on First Street invites all to a Mother’s Day Brunch and Tea. There will be two seatings, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Reserve seats directly at Ott & Murphy’s as capacity is limited. Call 360-221-7131.

A musical offering will be made by a small group from within Whidbey Chamber Singers, the island’s own chamber performance choir. The quartet, consisting of Al Benson, bass; Ken Stephens, tenor; Christina Parker, alto; and Sheila Weidendorf, soprano, will perform songs, madrigals and more, including works by William Paxton, Arthur Sullivan and Pierre Certon.

The fun doesn’t end here.

Mother Mentors, the nonprofit that pairs moms of young children with a mentor who helps and supports them during their kids’ early years, will be in Langley and hand out flowers to say thank you to all moms.

All weekend long women can exercise their right to shop ’til they drop.

A huge apparel sidewalk sale is scheduled with Wander on Whidbey, Inn the Country, the Cottage, Big Sister and eight other stores participating. Many of Langley’s spas, restaurants and stores also have special offers planned.

The weekend is a Langley Centennial celebration event. A full schedule of events for the rest of the centennial year is available at, or “like” Langley Main Street Association of Facebook for updates.

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