January 16, 2020
This past weekend I attended a fundraiser event called the Snow Ball, and this year’s theme was the 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment. According to the United States Constitution, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote and was ratified on August 18, 1920. The fundraiser was for the Mill Museum located in Willimantic, Connecticut. The Mill Museum decided this year’s Snow Ball theme to introduce their upcoming exhibit opening in mid-February called Unlacing the Corset, Unleashing the Vote, and the associated lectures to bring the history alive. In addition to dancing along with live music from local band The Flamingos and participating in the silent auction, each table had a black box to collect 1920s ballots for a mock election; the results will be posted on their Facebook page. We will see if the result is different from the 1920 results when women first had the right to vote.
After attending the Snow Ball, I reflected on the significance of the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. It is incredible that it has been only 100 years that women were able to voice their views by participating in voting in state and federal elections. A lot of American women, including my great-grandmothers, were able to vote for the first time. It also took close to one hundred years to see a woman attempt to run for president, and this year at the time of this post we have three women running for president. We could potentially elect a female president one hundred years after the 19th Amendment was ratified. There is so much we still need to accomplish for equity rights for all American citizens.
Ever since the Mill Museum fundraiser I wanted to find out what other museums are also commemorating the ratification of the 19th Amendment. For instance, the National Archives Museum has an exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, that can be visited in person and virtually on their website, which highlights the relentless struggle of diverse activists throughout U.S. history to secure voting rights for all American women. It will be open from Friday, May 10, 2019 to Sunday, January 3, 2021.
There is also a 200-year old house located a block from the U.S. Capitol called the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument; it served as the headquarters for the National Women’s Party founded by women’s suffrage leader Alice Paul in 1916. The National Park Service operates a museum about the suffrage movement and the fight for women’s rights out of the historic house, and ranger-led tours are run Wednesdays through Sundays at 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
At the National Museum of American History, an exhibit called American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith which opened in June 2017. The exhibit focuses on the changing political ideals and principles of the nation, citizenship in a pluralistic society, and political participation and engagement. One of the objects that is featured in the exhibit is the table on which Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments.
Another example of an exhibit celebrating the women’s suffrage is one I visited last November at the Middlebury Museum of Art during the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference week. The exhibit discussed the question “Should American women vote?” and why many have not considered this question until the last century. Inside the exhibit, there were vintage photographs, banners, and memorabilia that coincided with the 100th anniversary.
Many museums are doing various exhibits, events, and programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. I included links to the ones I referred to and the ones I found in my search.
What museums do you know are celebrating the 100th anniversary? How are you going to commemorate the 100th anniversary?