“Amendment 19: 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.”

Nearly a hundred years ago, in August 1920, only one last state was needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. The suffragists converged on Tennessee for the culmination of a decades-long fight to expand voting rights to the female half of the American population. Their leaders were ridiculed,vilified, and even imprisoned. The movement faced opposition from politicians, clergy, corporations, and from other women who feared that suffrage would result in the nation’s moral collapse.

In her book “The Woman’s Hour,” author and journalist Elaine Weiss tells the dramatic story of this final battle in the war to win the right for women to vote. However, 1920 was just the first great campaign in a century-long struggle for civil rights. African Americans in the South had to wait until the 1960s for a guarantee of voting rights. Even today, we read about voter suppression efforts in some parts of the country. The Equal Rights Amendment remains unratified.

Alongside the anniversary of this historical turning point, the League of Women Voters is also celebrating its hundredth anniversary this month in 2020. Founded six months before the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, with the purpose of educating women voters, the League continues today as a non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to promoting informed citizen participation at all levels of government.

The League has a rich history of working on vital issues of concern to its members and the public including locally through the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County.

This month, a variety of community events celebrate the dual centennial:

  • Moving Forward, Looking Back: An exhibit at Bellingham’s Old City Hall about Washington’s first women in government.—February 15 to May 17.
  • Elaine Weiss, author of “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote,” discusses her research at WWU Performing Arts Center—February 27 at 6:30 p.m.Co-sponsored by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education and Village Books.
  • Women Who Matter: Weekly articles about Whatcom County women in Cascadia Weekly.—Now through December 2020.

Also planned: Student creative art and writing projects with scholarships awarded by the American Association of University Women, a children’s summer reading program through Bellingham and Whatcom County Libraries, monthly presentations during the spring on the continuing struggle for equal representation, special concerts, and a community celebration in August on the actual anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

For more information about the League of Women Voters and these events, visit lwvbellinghamwhatcom.org.

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