How To Celebrate 100 Years of Women's Voting Rights in Kansas City
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women in the U.S. the right to vote. Here's how to celebrate Kansas City style.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which declared:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” On August 26, 1920, the amendment became law and now we celebrate that day as Women’s Equality Day every year.
Kansas City was right in the thick of the debate. Even before Kansas statehood, activists campaigned for equal suffrage in the state, while Missouri suffrage leaders kept the topic aflame at both the local and national levels.
To honor this centennial, regional organizations are putting on a variety of ways to acknowledge and celebrate this significant occasion, many partnering to share their information and events, collected at 19at100.org.
Due to COVID-19, some of the planned events have shifted online, but we’ve selected some local and national options to get you in the mood to vote. You are registered to vote, right?
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Local Leaders in the Fight
Suffrage leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton campaigned in the region, and adopted the Kansas sunflower as a symbol of the movement.
But we also had our own local suffrage leaders, such as Carrie Langston Hughes, Sarah Chandler Coates and Alma Nash, who led the Missouri Women’s Military Band in the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C. You can learn more about the “Show-Me Suffragists” in this podcast from the State Historical Society of Missouri.
In Kansas, women had been voting in school board elections since statehood in 1861 and earned full suffrage across the state in 1912, making it the 8th state to allow women to vote in national elections. In 1887, citizens in Kansas elected the first woman mayor in the United States, Susanna Salter.
The Women’s Suffrage Association of Missouri was founded in 1867 and state suffrage for women came about in March 1919. Many local women’s clubs, such as the Kansas City Anthenaeum contributed to the fight for suffrage.
You can teach your children (or students) about some of our region’s local leaders with the Kansas City Public Library’s “Women Who Made History: 19th Amendment Centennial” coloring book and learn more in Rebekah Aycock’s article “The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Kansas City” from "The Pendergast Years" project.
Performances and Events
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, there are many ways to share in the celebration and connect with fellow suffrage-enthusiasts.
- Earlier this year, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City commissioned the suffrage-themed “And Still We Dream,” by composer Laura Karpman and librettist Kelley Rourke, based on the writings of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Watch the performance here.
- Shawnee Town 1929 hosts “Movers and Shakers of the Women’s Suffrage Movement” Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. Arrive early and you'll receive a “Votes for Women” pin, sash or banner created by local Girl Scouts.
- Shawnee Town also has “Jammin’ on the Green” with the Grand Marquis Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. to celebrate the centennial. Masks are required and both events are free, but you must RSVP so the organization can ensure social distancing.
- The Kansas City Public Library hosted “Qualified Rights: Women’s Suffrage, Citizenship, and the 19th Amendment Reconsidered” on Tuesday, Aug. 18 with historian Saje Mathieu, focusing on African-American activism and rights. You can now watch it on YouTube.
- The Kansas City Public Library hosts “Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener” with Kimberley Hamlin on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. Watch live on YouTube.
- You could also put on your own show using the script for “Failure is Impossible” by Rosemary K. Knower, from the National Archives. Or, if you're more musically inclined, check out the Library of Congress’ “Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music” collection or “The Suffrage Song Book,” published in Topeka in 1909.
Learn More About the Movement
If you want to take a deep dive into the people, images and writings from the movement, here are some local and national exhibits you can check out online and in-person.
- Explore online exhibits from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, National Archives and the National Park Service.
- The WWI Museum and Memorial has an in-person exhibit “Votes and Voices” and a detailed article on Women’s Suffrage from their "Women in WWI" series.
- Johnson County Museum made its exhibit “Women and The Vote” available online, highlighting “170 years of women’s history in Kansas.”
- The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum in Gladstone, Missouri, hosts the traveling exhibit “Demanding a Greater Future: A Centennial of Women’s Suffrage” through Oct. 3.
Are you home-schooling/remote learning this semester? Check out some of these living history performances online.
- Watch an online reenactment interview with suffragist Genevieve Howland Chalkley (portrayed by author Jeanne Klein) on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 10 a.m. You can register for this free webinar here.
- From the National Archives, you can “Meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton” (portrayed by Mary Ann Jung) in a live, online performance on Thursday, Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. Register for the free webinar here.
- Want to get a first-hand look at the history of suffrage? The Library of Congress: By The People project crowdsources transcriptions for some suffragists’ original documents in the collection.
The Ongoing Fight For Voting Rights
Check your voter registration. Register to vote in Missouri or Kansas by Wednesday, Oct. 7. Request your absentee ballot in Missouri or Kansas before Wednesday, Oct. 21, though we recommend doing this sooner. Ballots must be received by Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Return your ballot well before the election to avoid delays.
If you're voting in-person in Kansas, consider your early voting options. Both Kansas and Missouri require proof of ID to vote in person, so bring that along with you.
And make sure your friends and family are all registered and ready to vote in November.