Change Makers: Binghamton’s Catherine Bartoo creates change during NY suffrage movement

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 10:55 AM EDT
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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- All month long, current local women change makers have been highlighted on WBNG. For the last profile, Broome County Historian Roger Luther takes a look back at the work of Catherine Bartoo.

“She was an artist, she was a suffragist, and she was a political activist. She had a big impact on this whole area for the first 50 years of the 20th century,” said Luther describing Bartoo.

Bartoo was a Pennsylvania native who lived from 1877 to 1949. But Luther said Bartoo built her roots in Binghamton. Luther said Bartoo studied art and went to New York City and Buffalo to pursue her passion. But it was when she was in Binghamton that met Elfred Bartoo, who she would marry.

During the women’s suffrage era, Bartoo used her enthusiasm for portraits and landscapes around 1915 to complement another passion as an activist. She was eventually appointed as the director of the Broome County Women’s Suffrage Committee.

“She just ran with it,” said Luther. “She held events, she held fundraisers. In fact, she sold some of her paintings at fundraisers to raise money for the movement.”

During her time at the committee along Court Street, she would host speeches along the courthouse steps and community centers. Luther said Bartoo spent time trying to convince the male population that women should vote.

Bartoo didn’t act alone in the local efforts for the statewide movement, it was a collaborative effort. Luther noted that Bartoo’s efforts helped get women in New York State the right to vote in 1917.

When it comes to the lasting impact of Bartoo, Luther said she paved the way for many women.

“She laid the groundwork and provided the inspiration for generations to come,” said Luther. “I’m sure if you ask Lea Webb or if you ask Donna Lupardo, they would tell you the same thing. They knew about Catherine Bartoo, they learned from her, and they just took up where she left off.”

When it comes to Bartoo’s art passion, some of her work can be seen today at the Roberson Museum & Science Center. Adding to her legacy, Bartoo was also a founder of the Binghamton Fine Arts Society.