Statewide celebration of women's suffrage

Published: Dec. 28, 2019 at 2:07 PM EST
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The new year is bringing a yearlong celebration after West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner announced the formation of a committee to plan events commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave U.S. women the right to vote.

Kat Williams is a professor of U.S. women’s history at Marshall University who is helping with the planning.

“There will be marches; there will be speeches; and there will be a number of different, exciting events,” she told The Herald-Dispatch.

One of the committee’s main goals is to raise awareness of the milestone and its importance, she said.

“A lot of people don’t know that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and they have a lot of misconceptions about it,” Williams said. “Women fought for 72 years to gain the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement started in 1848, so this was a really long fight. This is a significant piece of legislation that we’re celebrating.”

Williams is teaching a special class in the spring 2020 semester that will discuss the history of U.S. women since the passage of the amendment.

“What we’ve done in that 100 years since women gained the right to vote has been remarkable,” Williams said.

Helen Gibbins, president of the League of Women Voters of the Huntington Area, said her group is helping to plan both local and statewide events. They include a parade on Women’s Equality Day in August, which will begin on Marshall’s campus. A “Right to Vote” Reader’s Theater that the League has performed in years prior will have a special focus on women’s suffrage in 2020, Gibbons said.

A complete list of events statewide will be released by the Secretary of State’s Office at the start of the new year.

“It’s important that people know about it, and it’s important that kids are learning about it in school. It’s like a free history lesson,” Williams said of the commemoration. “We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women in this country having full citizenship rights, and it doesn’t get much larger than that.”