Photo of the Week


“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck 


Syrena H. Stackpole, Elected to Public Office in 1931

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian

Syrena H. Stackpole of Riverhead, left, with her mother Mary Stackpole, in an undated photograph. (Image from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The Town of Riverhead has the distinction of electing the first woman to hold elected office–Syrena Stackpole–as Justice of the Peace, in 1931, at a time when American women had the right to vote for a mere eleven years. 

Syrena H. Stackpole (1888-1983), the 1903 Riverhead High School valedictorian at age 14, was the daughter of attorney George Stackpole and suffragist Mary Stackpole of Riverhead. Earning her bachelor’s degree at Wellesley College, Syrena held various jobs after college–she “taught school, raised chickens and worked as a stenographer, librarian, and secretary”–before returning to school to earn her law degree at New York University School of Law. Ms. Stackpole became the first woman admitted to the Suffolk County Bar Association and the first Suffolk County woman attorney to have her own law practice (which was based in Riverhead).

In another first, Ms. Stackpole was the first woman elected to public office as Justice of the Peace, in Riverhead Town in 1931, which at the time meant she was also a member of the town board. The Democratic State Committee, in a 1931 personal correspondence addressed to Ms. Stackpole, wrote: “The first time that a woman breaks into public office is a landmark in the progress of women, and you have blazed a trail for others to follow.” In recognition of Stackpole’s 1931 victory, fellow Democrat president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one year later, invited Syrena to the White House on the occasion of his inaugural parade. Ms. Stackpole, who was 42 years old at the time of her historic election, continued to practice law in Riverhead until her early 90s.


The objects we use to get through an ordinary day have changed tremendously over time, so much so that many everyday items once used at work or at home by your grandparents (or great-grandparents) are now virtually unrecognizable. This exhibit will showcase a selection of the more mysterious, interesting, and challenging objects from our collection to baffle, befuddle, and bemuse.  Can you guess what they are? Bring your cellphone for an interactive experience!

What the #*!! Is THAT? will be in our Weathervane Gallery beginning Friday, March 12, 2021. Exhibit curated by Richard Doctorow. 


The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum is open to the public for a safe, socially-distanced family outing with 15-minute intervals between parties. Exhibits provide a safe, “touchless” experience for adults and children alike. Masks are required of all museum visitors over age 2.


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AAQ / Resource: Riverhead Toyota