Celebration of 100 years of women’s right to vote goes virtual

By Tabby Fitzgerald

INDIANAPOLIS—Women officially gained the right to vote in Indiana on Aug. 26, 1920, but it was a victory that took nearly 70 years to achieve from the first women’s rights convention to Congress finalizing the 19th Amendment.

Twice in that time women came close. The first was in 1881 when state lawmakers approved an amendment allowing Hoosier women the right to vote but it needed to pass again two years later. But in 1883 all records of the first vote had vanished.

The second time was in 1917 when state legislators approved three separate laws to give women the right to vote. However, the Indiana Supreme Court declared those actions unconstitutional, according to the timeline compiled by the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.

Plaque commemorating the first women’s suffrage convention.

“It demonstrates how persistent these women were to have that sort of obstacle come up over and over again,” said Leah Nahmias, director of Programs and Community Engagement at Indiana Humanities, one of the groups organizing the centennial activities.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, the suffrage commission, Indiana Historical Society, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana Humanities, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, and Indiana Statehouse Tour Office are hosting a Suffrage Centennial Block Party from Saturday, Aug. 29, through Sept. 4.

Across seven days, there will be more than 30 events that are both virtual and in-person taking place to celebrate Hoosier suffragists. Events range from free admission to the Indiana State Museum to virtual events such as Spill the Tea where staff from the Indiana State Museum will be talking about important women from the suffrage movement.

“We want people to be aware of Hoosier suffragists and the hard work they put in to make sure that women today could vote,” said Marcy Dodson, adult engagement and program manager of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

The original plan was to have food trucks, keynotes and events on the canal in downtown Indianapolis. But when COVID-19 hit, organizers changed those plans and made the majority of the events virtual, Dodson said.

Although it wasn’t the original plan, Dodson is happy with the outcome because it allows them to reach more Hoosiers across the state.

“It opened up a way for us to expand this across the entire state since it is virtual,” Dodson said. “Although we were really sad to see that initial plan that we almost were done working on fizzle away before COVID, it was really great to pivot and find a solution that in a way serves more people, which we’re always happy if we can serve more families and I think this is something really important to celebrate in our history.”

One of the virtual events takes place Saturday at 11 a.m. on Facebook live. There, Anita Morgan will share stories of Hoosier suffragists from her new book, We Must Be Fearless: The Woman’s Suffrage Movement in Indiana. 

Planners of the block party, such as Callie McCune, manager of Public Programs at the Indiana Historical Society, say they hope the events that are offered will connect with Hoosiers and highlight what women accomplished in the past. That way women today can see what can happen and are encouraged to use the vote that so many fought for and continue the legacy of their predecessors.

“We also really want to celebrate and have conversations around Indiana’s women, women’s history in Indiana and highlight the people that fought for equality and inclusion in civil responsibility,” McCune said. “We will go encourage people to continue the legacy that these Hoosier heroines set for us by going out to hopefully vote if they can in the future.”

Tabby Fitzgerald is a reporter with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Editor’s note: Marcy Dodson’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of the story.

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