Written by Amalia Birch, Summer Intern 2020
August 18th, 2020 marked 100 years to the day of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. There have been events, initiatives, and organizations coming together to mark the significance of this occasion in Sacramento, including The Next Hundred Years of Women Voting, a group of women from several nonpartisan organizations who came together to plan a celebration for the centennial and encourage people to vote.
The Next Hundred Years of Women Voting committee was planning a big celebration to take place at Cal Expo on August 22nd, however, due to the COVID-19 crisis, they have been focusing on marking the anniversary virtually. In addition, they were working on a resolution that was signed on Aug. 18th by the County of Sacramento Board of Supervisors, to recognize the significance of the 19th Amendment in advancing the rights of women and voting rights for all. The committee hopes to hold an in-person celebration in 2021.
Diana Madoshi, a board member of the National Women’s History Alliance and committee member of The Next Hundred Years of Women Voting, remembers her interest in women’s history and the suffrage movement being sparked after watching a film called “Iron Jawed Angels”, a film about suffragist Alice Paul. It came to her attention that even after all of the work of the suffragists and the way they were vilified, many women today had not voted in the most recent election. “It really resonated with me that when people put their lives on the line and they sacrificed a lot to get the right to vote, that women, not only young women, some of the older women did not take it seriously.”
Learning about the Suffrage movement can be a powerful avenue for promoting voting, said Madoshi. “When you know where you’ve been, you have an idea of where you’re going and how you can get there,” she said. “That makes a strong foundation for your vote.”
Madoshi also noted the importance of recognizing that not all women were allowed to vote after 1920. Indigenous women, Black Women, and Chinese women all faced voter suppression for decades to come. “We have to realize that history is complicated,” said Madoshi. “Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, although they came out of the abolition movement, they had racial bias.” The significance women of color played in the suffrage movement has also been often overshadowed. “They wrote the history through the lens of white women’s eyes. And so consequently, when I would talk with a number of African Americans or people of color they will say the women’s suffrage movement was all about white women. And I said, ‘No. women of color made it possible for Dewey to get the 19th amendment passed.’”
Many suffrage stories are being showcased now in two new exhibits that opened at the California Museum on August 18th. These exhibits were created in collaboration with First Partner Siebel Newsom, the first of which, “Women Inspire: California Women Changing Our World,” features stories of California women whose contributions greatly impacted strides towards equality. The second exhibit, “Fight for the Right: 100 Years of Women Voting,” celebrates the centennial by showcasing over 70 artifacts from the Suffrage era.
Amanda Meeker, Director of the California Museum, said these exhibits not only showcase the importance of women but also that women fought hard to gain the vote. “They didn’t give up and the reason for that is that voting is really important,” said Meeker. “We hope that all of the sacrifices that those women went through, we won’t forget them, and we won’t forget how important it was what they were fighting for and that each vote counts.”