Tag Archives: Woman Suffrage Movement-Minnesota

History matters: Lessons from the Woman Suffrage Movement


On this day, in the midst of World War I, the House passed a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote by a count of 274 to 136. Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana who, a year earlier, had become the first woman to serve in Congress, implored her colleagues to support the legislation: “How shall we answer their challenge, gentlemen: how shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted for war to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?” The Senate, however, failed to pass the amendment in the 65th Congress (1917–1919), so the measure was once again reintroduced in the House in the 66th Congress (1919–1921), passing on May 21, 1919, by a vote of 304 to 90. The Senate concurred shortly afterward. The 19th Amendment then went to the states, where it was finally ratified in August 1920. http://history.house.gov/HistoricalHighlight/Detail/35873

As today’s press reminds us, women are in the political and societal spotlight at this juncture – the Women’s March and Me Too are indicators of a shift in public attention to the majority population.  What interests me more is the vastly increased number of women who have thrown their bonnets in the ring to run for public office.

And yet, what surprises, even disappoints me, is the fact that there is so little mention of the fact that this political engagement is the logical, inevitable – if delayed – response to a movement that shaped our politics a century ago.  2018 marks one hundred years since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the monumental achievement of the Woman Suffrage Movement – a time to learn and celebrate the accomplishment and to reflect on the profound impact of that bold struggle.

Volumes have been written about the history, the women, the organizations, the protests.  Needless to say, Wikipedia offers a starting point with tips on related resources. The MNopedia article about the Woman Suffrage Movement in Minnesota by Eric W. Weber, shared on MinnPost, offers an excellent introduction to what was happening on the ground in Minnesota a century ago –  https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2012/09/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association-fought-womens-right-vote.  Earlier posts on this blog offered a Minnesota slant on the movement.  https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/woman-suffrage-movement/

Learning and thinking about the Suffragettes – their long struggle, their vision, and their ultimate success – offers a necessary source of creative energy and vision.  This democracy depends on a vision realized and reinforced by a history of individual initiative, freedom of speech, collaboration and truth — character epitomized by the Woman Suffrage Movement.  We ignore the history of the women’s right to vote at our peril.

You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own. Michelle Obama

P.S.  If you happen to be traveling to Our Nation’s Capitol you may be interested in know: https://www.archivesfoundation.org/women/?utm_campaign=2018Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=February&utm_source=National+Archives+Master&utm_campaign=cb44e8e451-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_11_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_267af3e1d5-cb44e8e451-53582223&mc_cid=cb44e8e451&mc_eid=ecfb769805

Lessons for today from the Woman Suffrage Movement

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.  Winston Churchill

Recently I posted on this blog a spate of brief and preliminary backgrounders about the forthcoming celebration of the centenary of ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.  Celebration of the ratification is simply a point in time; what’s important is that we capitalize on the occasion to learn from and share the lessons that can be gleaned from the long and volatile struggle known as the Woman Suffrage Movement.

The hallmarks of the Woman Suffrage Movement were vision, commitment, resilience, collaboration and persistence – virtues demanded by these troubled times.  Fortunately, the tools to understand and share those stories are both rich and relevant. These are the links to these recent posts:

The earlier posts identify resources that cover the Woman Suffrage Movement from a national perspective. They suggest the broad perspective, what was happening at the national level, the leaders and key supporters of the Suffragettes.

Still it is often more meaningful to tackle complex issues such as ratification of the 19th Amendment from a local perspective, the context of  one’s personal experience.  The Woman Suffrage Movement may be best understood as the struggle evolved and involved individuals “close to home” – with whom we have some connection in terms of  geography or experience

Fortunately, the record of Minnesotans’ involvement in the Woman Suffrage Movement is robust and readily accessible.

For a quick and easy guide to Minnesota’s ratification, start with the Minnesota House Record posted here:   (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)  The archives  include a replica of the original ratification document – an inspiring first step on the journey to trace the roots of the movement. (http://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205)

For an excellent overview of the history of Minnesota’s steps to ratification there is no better than Eric W. Weber’s excellent piece on the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association  posted in MNOpedia.  (http://www.mnopedia.org/group/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association).  Weber’s essay  was reprinted by MinnPost in 2012 (https://www.minnpost.com/mnopedia/2012/09/minnesota-woman-suffrage-association-fought-womens-right-vote)

The MNOpedia entry leads to treasure troves of excellent resources including these:

These sources provide a firm foundation to appreciate the work of historian Jane Curry who has toured the state with her delightful one-woman show “Samantha Rastles the Woman Question.” It’s a powerful production that tells the story of the Woman’s Movement in a most delightful way!  Learn more here: (http://www.usfamily.net/web/dllund/jac/samantha.htm)

Though these posts may seem premature, consider the prolonged struggle for the Woman Suffrage Movement.  The parallel with today’s challenges offers a powerful model of resistance, collaboration, persistence and resilience, qualities that serve us well both individually and collectively in these difficult times.

She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails ― Elizabeth Edwards