Learning and Sharing Stories of the Suffrage Movement

The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.  ~ Carl Jung

The story of the Suffragette Movement is the story of resistance, persistence – and ultimate triumph.  The long struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote is a uniquely American story worthy of retelling in these times.

The June 2019 centenary of passage of the 19th Amendment offers an opportunity for us to study the story of the Suffragettes in depth, to analyze and emulate the vision and tactics of the Movement.  This is a powerful story of American patriots who shared a vision and marshalled their talents, strength and unstinting hope to pursue a common purpose.

The centenary of their success, June 4, 2019, invites the nation to research the records, remember and retell the story.  There is time to honor the unstinting courage of the Suffragettes by doing a deep dive into the history of the Woman Suffraqe Movement — then sharing the stories with contemporaries and future generations.

Though it may seem like overkill, when tackling an historic issue of national scope a good place to start is with our nation’s repositories of recorded history –the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.  Not the magnificent buildings in Washington, DC but the very accessible digital libraries that open the historic record to armchair searchers wherever they may be.   In recent times LC and the Archives have created digital repositories that breathe life into the story of the Suffragettes Movement.

Librarians and archivists responsible for preserving the record of the nation have taken a lead to harness digital technology to share the intellectual treasures of the nation.  They are committed to crafting useful tools that guide the remote searcher along the digital path to learning about the country’s legacy.  Their mission is to share the personal stories of real people whose recorded legacy is now accessible through digitized letters, scrapbooks, songs, photos, and diaries –  real life stories that share the thoughts and situations of those individuals and institutions that shaped this nation..

A couple of  starting points will guide the seeker’s path to the Suffragettes’ stories:

Library of Congress:

Though the physical Library of Congress is elegant it is beyond overwhelming; and yet a digital dive into the treasures is manageable. LC resources are even organized by grade/age level to suggest their appropriate audience, even  the youngest learner.  Some basic tips:

  • A good strategy is a dip into the primary documents digitized by LC – – it will inspire even the recalcitrant searcher to press on! Among the treasures are the files of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as well as countless photos, letters, diaries that capture the stories, the images and voices of the suffragettes.   All that little stuff gives life to real people who worked for years to resist the human forces that impeded their struggle to reach a mighty goal. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/19thamendment.html
  • And here’s a great photographic complement to the primary documents collection. https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html
  • For a timeline of American women’s road to assuring their voting rights, click here: https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw_timeline.html

Each of these launch points will lead the searcher to treasure troves of stories waiting to be told.

National Archives:

The resources of the National Archives and the Library of Congress complement each other.   Staffers at the Archives  join  colleagues at LC in their commitment to expand digital access.  Of the many navigational tools here are some useful starting points:

These digital options for understanding the long struggle for passage of the 19th Amendment provide a logical first step on the research path; they offer a door to a world of stories!   The challenge is to realize and document this pivotal era in our nation’s history.  If we are to honor the labor and vision of the Suffragettes we must take to heart the priority for us to learn and tell the stories of the women and men who pressed on for decades to achieve what we now take for granted.  For us, the mission must be to study the true facts that capture the essence and describe the forces that emboldened the Suffragettes to speak truth to power for decades leading up to passage of the 19th Amendment.    The quest to learn, then tell, the stories deserves time, discussion, reflection.

Some other starting points:

For a really quick overview of the Suffragettes’ struggle, click here:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-passes-the-19th-amendment

For a broader view of American women’s rights, including but not limited to the Suffragette Movement, this Congressional publication provides a good overview.  http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/

For authoritative information regularly updated, these are major – and very helpful –  sources:

These are simply suggestions; resources and perspectives abound.  Exploring, then telling, the story of the Woman’s Movement offers a focus and a challenge to examine strategies that emboldened the Suffragettes to resist and persist.  We are not the first Americans to face a mighty challenge.  We have much to learn from those who set the pace a century ago:

When you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. Bertice Berry

 

 

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