Suffrage Centennial Year Begins

2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution extending voting rights to women. It happened in 1920, after 72 years of organizing, educating and agitating. While it was the nation’s most consequential social/political revolution, very few of us ever learn much about it. 

Here’s some things about the fight for women’s vote that we didn’t learn in school:

• It started in 1848 with 300 women and men meeting in a church in Seneca Falls, NY.

• Over 1,000 people from 5 states attended the first national women’s rights convention held two years later in Worcester, MA.

• Women were harassed, ridiculed in the press and burned in effigy just for calling for voting rights.

• In 1913, half a million people lined the streets of Washington to watch thousands of women march down Pennsylvania Avenue demanding their right to vote.

Women marchers were attacked by mobs of men while police stood by. The Army had to be called in to separate the marchers from the attackers.

• Women protesting silently outside the White House were arrested, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and force fed for “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

• Today, voter turnout among women is higher than it is among men.

The dearth of knowledge about the women’s suffrage movement is being aggressively addressed this year. The Rose Bowl parade, televised on New Year’s Day, featured a suffrage float and 100 marchers. A PBS documentary is in the works, new books have been published, lectures are scheduled and even a Broadway musical will debut. Activities, exhibits and events are being planned across the nation and the Internet.

Across North Central Massachusetts, too, local historical societies will be commemorating the suffrage centennial. We’ll keep you informed of suffrage events and ask that you alert us to offerings in the state and beyond.

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