Imagine for a minute that it’s the first decade of the 20th century. Lucy Burns writes “Votes for Women” on a Washington, D.C. sidewalk and is arrested. So is suffragist leader Alice Paul. She is force-fed when she conducts a hunger strike. Hundreds more women board a train to the West Coast and gather thousands upon thousands of signatures on petitions asking that women be allowed to vote. They carry them back to DC, driving in the new-fangled automobile over barely existing roads. Women hold the biggest rally in DC’s history in 1913. They wear white dresses; they wear big, beautiful hats. They are led by Inez Mulholland on horseback, wearing a gold helmet. Most national-level parades and marches featured women on horseback. Inez herself worked so tirelessly for the cause that she exhausted herself, got sick, and died out West at age 30 without seeing suffrage come to be. One of the last things she said was intended for President Woodrow Wilson to hear: “How long must we wait?”
Today, a century later, when women can run businesses, own property, compete in athletics at all levels, lead international organizations and countries, vote, and own credit cards, the massive efforts that were put forth sound unbelievable. Nowadays we tend to think of “Women’s Rights,” moving from a meeting at Seneca Falls in 1848 to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 an a clean, straight-forward, logical line. It was far from it.
Struggles by white women were at least covered in the press, but these women and male allies weren’t the only fighters. Elsewhere in the country, Native American women like Susett La Flesche Tibbles, Asian Americans like Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, and a bevy of brilliant African American women like Ida B. Wells, Mary E. Church Terrell, Adella Hunt Logan, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper took the fight to all corners of American society. They campaigned without cease to convince people that “this is what the US Constitution pledges and we must make it happen.”
Those who worked for women to get the vote were “The Suffs.” Those who opposed, arguing that women were Angels of the House and their power lay there, were “The Anti-Suffs.”
Yes, the struggle to gain the vote was long and hard, actively lasting the better part of a century. Young people today can hardly believe that happened. A young professional in town shook his head, “How could that have been a thing?” he said. A boy recently asked his mom, “Why? Why didn’t women always have the vote? This is a democracy.”
On August 26—Women’s Equality Day, and the 99th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment--the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and the Crawfordsville District Public Library will kickoff a yearlong program at the library to investigate and tackle some of those questions in a series of programs at the CDPL.
The Kickoff event for 100 YEARS OF VOTES FOR WOMEN will take place at Pike Place at 6:30 the evening of August 26. The whole community is invited to come to celebrate what we take for granted, and also remember what a struggle it was before women were declared to be equal citizens.
Please join us to chant some Suffragist chants, to sing a Suffragist song and to hear Mayor Todd Barton read a proclamation recognizing 100 years of women voting. Sharon Negele, State Representative (R-Attica), and author of the bill creating the Women’s Centennial Commission for our state, will be with us to say a few words about this historic occasion. Mary Taylor’s clarion voice will sing out a Suffrage song; the Crescendos and the Community Chorus will sing a Suffragist anthem. Musical instrument preservationist, Tim McCormick, will play a phonograph record from the early 20th century on an antique machine. It will be worth coming for the music alone!
Immediately preceding the event at Pike Place, a re-enactment of a VOTES FOR WOMEN march will be held. We invite you to join League of Women Voters members at the courthouse at 6 pm for the one-block march to Pike Place.
The Kickoff and March are for families: bring children and grandparents, bring your neighbors and your workmates. A vital milestone in our democratic life as a nation is being marked in Crawfordsville. Be part of it!
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization encourages informed and active participation in government. Information about the LWV can be found in website: www.lwvmontcoin.org or send a message to LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.