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How To Celebrate 100 Years of Women's Voting Rights in Kansas City

Cornell University - The PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography

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?

This piece was originally featured in KCUR's Creative Adventure email. If you'd like to see more content like this along with ideas for adventures of your own, subscribe to our weekly Adventure email.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

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.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

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 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.
B.M. Boye 1913 Lithograph Sheet
The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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.

  • Johnson County Museum made its exhibit “Women and The Vote” available online, highlighting “170 years of women’s history in Kansas.”

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.
A postcard by Marjorie Longwell celebrates the passage of full suffrage in California in 1911.
Marjorie Longwell. National Museum of American History/National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
A 1917 postcard by Marjorie Longwell celebrates the passage of full suffrage in California.

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.

In the meantime, you can trust KCUR’s news team to keep you up to date on the latest in state and local election news. Subscribing to our daily Early Bird email is a great way to stay informed, too.

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.
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