(Montpelier) – Women got the vote in 1920: that’s within our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ lifetimes - not so long ago.
Next year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary. The Vermont Suffrage Centennial Alliance (VSCA), an energetic and expanding statewide group of volunteers led by the League of Women Voters of Vermont, is dedicated to informing Vermonters of the history and outcomes of women’s suffrage and engaging them in the ongoing quest for equal rights and citizenship.
The work of VSCA is guided by the talents and expertise of a wide variety of writers, educators and historians volunteering their time to mark this important milestone. Along with historian Lyn Blackwell, Rachel Onuf of the Vermont Historical Records Program, based at the State Archives and Records Administration, heads up VSCA’s History and Research subcommittee. Describing our state’s final push for women’s suffrage, Onuf stated, “Thanks to an unreceptive Governor, Percival Clement, Vermont missed the chance to be the ‘Victory State,’ the final state needed for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. This wasn’t due to a lack of effort on the part of supporters of the suffrage movement. Governor Clement received over 1,600 telegrams and letters urging him to call a special session of the legislature to vote on ratification, and 400 women marched to Montpelier to make that appeal in person, but the anti-suffrage Governor was unmoved, claiming Vermont couldn’t afford the expense of a special legislative session. Thus, the way was opened for Tennessee, which became the ‘Victory State’ in August of 1920.”
The VSCA intends to share the stories of Vermont Equal Suffrage Association members who marched on the capitol on that rainy day in April, as well as their predecessors in the movement. "Along with telling the Vermont suffrage story," reflects Sue Racanelli, League President and director of the Alliance, "we recognize the complex racial and economic schisms within the suffrage movement. In addition to the history we explore how the fight for voting rights, particularly for women of color, continues to this day. The Alliance has developed a pledge to support all the ways Vermont makes voting easy and accessible. We want to inspire voters to appreciate and exercise their right to vote.”
VSCA encourages Vermonters to discover and contribute their own family stories, and to remind their local historical societies, libraries, museums and schools to incorporate this important centennial in events, exhibits and programs. Joining other statewide efforts across the nation, VSCA will host a major event in August 2020 in Montpelier, featuring a parade and gathering with speakers, music and performances on the State House lawn. Leading up to that, they will host Fun Runs, lectures, and arts events around the state. They will also feature centennial-themed events of other organizations on their events calendar. Find them at vtsuffrage2020.org and @VTSuffrage2020.
The mission of the Vermont Suffrage Centennial Alliance is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and to acknowledge its incomplete legacy. VSCA plans to: inspire Vermonters to incorporate centennial themes into events, exhibits, and programs; provide educational opportunities for Vermonters to learn the inspiring and dramatic history of women’s suffrage; help showcase events celebrating the centennial in our state; host a statewide 2020 event; discover, provide access to, and share stories brought to light by historical records, artifacts, and ephemera; and inspire voters to appreciate and exercise the right to vote.
Sue Racanelli | 802.225.6032
Director, Vermont Suffrage Centennial Alliance | President, League of Women Voters of Vermont