19th Amendment turns 90

August 23, 2010
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The following post was written by IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

This week and last week mark two anniversaries of women’s rights in the United States in the form of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (finally) giving women the right to vote. The amendment was ratified by the 36th state on Aug. 18, 1920, and the ratification was certified Aug. 26, 1920. Indiana was the 26th state to ratify the amendment in January 1920.

Women had been asking for the right to vote since at least the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, is often credited for trying to convince her husband to “remember the ladies” in 1776. But women, as well as non-property owners, slaves, and other classes of people, did not receive this right in the original draft of the U.S. Constitution.

In the mid 1800s, regular women’s rights meetings began to take place following the Seneca Falls Convention in New York in July 1848. That and subsequent meetings included discussion on the right to vote for women, even though another seven decades would pass before that right was made official.

While hopefully this isn’t new information to most of our readers, it may have gone unnoticed that to get a firsthand look at the women’s suffrage movement, one need not travel farther than downtown Indianapolis.

The President Benjamin Harrison Home at 1230 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis, has an ongoing exhibit, “Bustles to Ballots” , that, according to the website, “features a display of the First Ladies from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama and a collection of women's suffrage artifacts acquired though a generous gift from the Lacy Family and the Lacy Foundation honoring the memory of Edna Balz Lacy. The suffrage collection is from the Cecelia E. Harris Collection.”

While I have been meaning to make it over there as a way to pay my respects to the women who came before me to ensure rights and opportunities that I try not to take for granted, I was intrigued by this description of the Harrison family’s contribution to women’s rights:

“(President Harrison’s wife) Caroline Harrison refused to donate any money to Johns Hopkins Medical University until they admitted women. She wrote them a check when they did so in 1891 and helped a committee raise $100,000 for the school. (Harrison’s daughter-in-law) May Saunders Harrison sat on the committee for the Women’s Building at the Columbian Exhibition in 1893. The Harrison women came from a background and family setting in which they were encouraged to be well educated.”

I also didn’t realize that President Harrison was the first president to hire a woman in a role that was not as a domestic servant: Alice B. Sanger started as the White House stenographer in 1889. There was also a female candidate running against President Harrison for the presidency.

In addition to the exhibit, which is open when the museum is open, there will be an event presented by the Indiana Women’s History Association with support from the League of Women Voters-Indianapolis. That event is Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and will take place at the Propylaeum, just north of the Harrison Home at 1410 N. Delaware St. Historic interpreters will perform the stories of three generations of Indiana suffragists. See their website for more details.

Are you doing anything to commemorate women’s suffrage?

  • Indiana State University's Women's Equality Day
    Thursday, Aug. 26 marks the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. The Women's Studies Program and Interdisciplinary Programs invites everyone to attend a celebration of this event on Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. in the library's events area. This program and reception will also celebrate the 2010 Awardees of the Charlotte Zietlow Women Faculty Research Grant. Dr. Zietlow, recognizing the gender gap in tenure, determined to do something about it and created the endowment that funds grants to support pre-tenure women faculty. For more information about this grant (application process for the next round will be Spring 2011), please visit http://www.indstate.edu/wmnstudy/awards.htm.
    Following the reception, consider staying on for a showing of a powerful movie, Iron-Jawed Angels, 6:15 - 8 p.m. Please urge your students to attend this film. Starring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul and Angelica Houston as Carrie Chapman Catt, this 2004 film forcefully portrays how many women put their lives at risk to give women what is now often taken for granted: the right to vote. Students are also welcome to attend the Women's Equality Day/Zietlow function.

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.