Three Exhibitions Explore The Complex History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement

As the 19th Amendment turns 100, three exhibitions in Washington explore the contentious — and unfinished — struggle for voting rights.

In the summer of 1919, shortly after Congress passed the 19th Amendment, the Smithsonian acquired a few relics from the nearly century-long struggle for women’s suffrage.

Suffragists' SongSusan B. Anthony’s red silk shawl and the table on which Elizabeth Cady Stanton had drafted the Declaration of Sentiments in 1848 were among the donated items. A year later, after the amendment was ratified by the states and became part of the Constitution, theywere put on view along with some documents, teacups, brooches and other objects in a modest display bearing the offhand title “An Important Epoch in American History.”

Today, there’s a bit more excitement. The yearlong centennial of the 19th Amendment is being commemorated with exhibitions, parades, conferences and new historical markers across the country, many timed to various states’ ratifications of the amendment. And in Washington, three major exhibitions are now open at the National Portrait Gallery, the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

Together, these shows — all curated by women — make up one of the richest explorations of women’s history yet assembled in the capital, or anywhere else. But they also offer a lesson in the messiness, complexities and compromises involved in any movement for social change — and the fraught politics of historical memory itself.

Exhibits in Washington, DC

2019-08-16T13:58:58-05:00August 16th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, is open at the National Portrait Gallery

To celebrate the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, is open at the National Portrait Gallery March 29, 2019 – January 5, 2020. Votes for Women features more than 120 portraits and objects spanning 1832 to 1965 that explore the American suffrage movement and the political challenges women faced.

2019-08-09T13:58:52-05:00August 9th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

Pasadena Celebrates 2020 in the Tournament of Roses Parade

Dear Wild West Women,
In 1911, the West led the way to winning the vote. Today thousands of women are joining together to celebrate the 19th Amendment Centennial. 1920 ~ 2020.

A small group of amazing persistent women has set their Centennial goal on a “Votes for Women” float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2020. They have invited each of us will be a part of this historic event.

The entire country will see this glorious, inclusive float marking the beginning of 2020 ~ the year of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial. The float theme is Years of Hope, Years of Courage . It is going to be 60 feet long and 30 feet high. The nation will a see a spectacular portrayal of our long history to earn the right to vote featuring central women in the campaign.

Floats and parades were a major tool in bringing attention to women’s right to vote. Cities both large and small learned about suffrage as women in automobiles, on floats and in parades spread their message across the country. The 2020 float and presence in the Tournament of Roses Parade will be a remarkable continuation of our legacy illuminating the importance of the VOTE.

Your donation will make you part of this float and parade.
Hundreds of women have begun sending $25 – $100.

It truly is a WOMEN’S FLOAT!

Join the excitement today.

CLICK TO MAKE YOUR CONTRIBUTION.

Remember to always celebrate suffrage with your VOTE,
Martha.

Donate and Join the Parade

2019-06-30T14:38:56-05:00June 30th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

The Battle for Women’s Suffrage in the US: 24 Amazing Photos

One hundred years ago this week, on June 4, 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would guarantee women the right to vote, and sent it on to the states for ratification (which took another 14 months). The battle for women’s suffrage in the United States had been taking place for years—in Congress, in the streets, and at home—with supporters organizing demonstrations, petitions, parades, and speeches, and coordinating with fellow activists in England, France, and other countries. Gathered below, images of some of the brave women who worked tirelessly for years to demand equal rights, and finally succeeded by having them written into law.

 

2019-06-30T14:07:56-05:00June 30th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

The Long Battle for Women’s Suffrage

With the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment approaching, a look back at the surprising history of giving women the vote

If you look at black-and-white photographs of suffragists, it’s tempting to see the women as quaint: spectacles and undyed hair buns, heavy coats and long dresses, ankle boots and feathered hats. In fact, they were fierce—braving ridicule, arrest, imprisonment and treatment that came close to torture. Persistence was required not only in the years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, in 1920, but also in the decades that followed. “It’s not as though women fought for and won the battle, and went out and had the show of voting participation that we see today,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the nonpartisan Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “It was a slow, steady process. That kind of civic engagement is learned.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. AnthonyThis forgotten endurance will be overlooked no more, thanks to “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence,” a major new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery through January 5, 2020, that features more than 120 artifacts, including the images and objects on these pages. “I wanted to make sure we honored the biographies of these women,” says Kate Lemay, a Portrait Gallery historian and the curator of the exhibit, which portrays the suffragists as activists, but also as students, wives and mothers. “I wanted to recognize the richness of their lives,” Lemay says. “I think that will resonate with women and men today.” The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, intended to be the nation’s most comprehensive effort to compile and share the story of women in this country.

Click Here to Read the Full Story

 

2019-06-30T13:53:31-05:00June 27th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

20 Suffragists To Know for 2020

These individuals fought for women’s suffrage. They lived across the United States, and came from around the world. Some were active in the battle for women’s right to vote in the early 1800s; others worked to educate and enroll voters and for voting rights into the late 1900s and beyond. Men and women, young and old, you may know some of them for other parts of their histories. Some you may never have heard of before.

Jane AdamsWe invite you to explore the stories of women’s access to the vote across America, through the histories of these 20 people who were among those who made it possible. Looking for more histories of suffragists?

Click Here to Read the Full Story

2019-05-28T10:55:56-05:00May 23rd, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|

105 Years of Women’s Suffrage in California

It’s hard to imagine that less than 100 years ago, all women did not have the right to vote in the United States. Many students across the nation now memorize the infamous 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, as granting American women the right to vote. But in fact many women to the west of the Mississippi had gained the right to vote long before their East Coast sisters joined them in 1920. At the beginning of 1920, women had already achieved full equality in suffrage in 15 states, and partial suffrage in another 20, leaving only 12 states where women were completely left out of the voting process. Indeed, here in California, women have had the right to vote since 1911, when the Golden State joined a total of five other Western states in granting women the full right to vote in all elections.

Women vote for President... why not in California? [broadside]
Women vote for President… why not in California? [broadside]

California was not the first state to give women the right to vote. That title belongs to Wyoming, which granted full suffrage to its citizens in 1869 while still a territory. Wyoming was followed by the likes of Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, all giving women the right to vote in the 19th century. California had also attempted to pass equal suffrage before the turn of the century but the motion failed. Today the Bay Area is considered a progressive stronghold but in 1896 it was actually San Francisco and Alameda counties that crippled the suffrage attempt that year. Strong business interests, particularly the producers and sellers of alcohol, virulently opposed female suffrage, convinced that women with their conservative mindsets would vote for prohibition. All hope was not lost, however, and Californian suffragettes and their allies would try again 15 years later.

With the memory of defeat ever present, California suffragettes implemented a new strategy when the topic of equal suffrage came up for a vote once more. Recalling that business had a strong hold on the state’s major cities, supporters of equal suffrage targeted voters in rural and southern California. To get the word out they used traditional tactics such as handing out more than 90,000 “Votes for Women” buttons and distributing three million pieces of promotional literature across southern California alone. But the suffragettes did more than put up posters and hand out buttons. They also pasted their message on billboards and often used electric signs, relaying their message with a spark.

Equal Suffrage League of San Francisco (ribbon)
Equal Suffrage League of San Francisco (ribbon)

October 10, 1911, was the day of reckoning in which allies of equal suffrage would see if their efforts bore fruit. Again both San Francisco and Alameda counties voted down the measure, and suffrage passed by just a hair in Los Angeles, to the dismay of many suffragettes. But all was not lost, and the tide began to turn as votes from California’s rural districts were tallied. When the final tally was made, equal suffrage had just barely come out on top with a miraculously small margin of just 3,587 votes, out of a total 246,487 ballots cast.

Today in California 73% of eligible adults are registered to vote, but just 43% of those adults turned out for the November 2014 election, a record low. This is a significant decrease from 2012 in which 72% of registered voters turned out to the polls.

One-hundred five years ago, fewer than 4,000 people were pivotal in changing the course of California history. Had they not voted, women in California might have had to wait another nine years to have their voices heard. To the women in California in 1911, a handful of votes were essential in advancing civil rights for thousands, proving that your vote truly does matter.

Check out the collection here: https://calisphere.org/collections/11601/

2019-05-28T10:48:56-05:00April 28th, 2019|Suffrage Centennial|