Stuhr Museum hosts event to commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage

Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 5:44 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Stuhr Museum hosted an event to tie together the past and the present.

It’s been a century since Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women in the United States the legal right to vote.

“I’ve voted in every election since 1972. So I really value that right to vote,” said Dianne Bystrom, co-president with the League of Women Voters of Nebraska.

Bystrom spoke at the Stuhr Museum’s event, called “Celebrate the Vote,” on Sunday. She detailed the major milestones in the women’s suffrage movement throughout the country and in Nebraska.

“The national suffrage movement is 72 years long. So it’s really long, but in Nebraska it’s 64 years,” Bystrom said. “Nebraska actually had the chance to not only be the first territory, but then the first state to give women’s suffrage. It was put up to voters several times, but we never did it.”

Bystrom said there were several attempts in Nebraska to give women the right to vote. The earliest was in 1856 when Nebraska was still a territory. She said the Senate stalled the amendment. All-male voters turned down several constitutional amendments after that.

In 1917, Nebraska allowed limited suffrage. Bystrom said women could vote in school and city elections as well as for presidential electors.

On Aug. 2, 1919 Nebraska became the 14th state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

“It means progress. It means pride. It means that people came together and really thought about what was best for our nation,” said Kari Stofer, a curator at the Stuhr Museum.

A Smithsonian poster display is hung around the second floor of the Stuhr Museum’s main building. The posters described the women’s movement leading up to the ratification of the 19th amendment and the continuing fight for women of color afterwards.

Some of the posters take viewers through the battle African, Asian and Native American women fought for their right to vote even after the ratification of the 19th amendment. It wasn’t for another four decades that president Lyndon Johnson signed The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed racial discrimination in voting practices.

A third of women went to the polls in 1920. Today, women outpace men in voting numbers and percentages. Bystrom said in 2016, 10 million more women voted than men.

Bystrom said many barriers still exist today. In 2013, Shelby County vs. Holder struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. House Democrats passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on Dec. 26, 2019, which would restore protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act against racial discrimination. The Senate has yet to move forward.

To encourage people to exercise their right to vote, even in these uncertain times, Stuhr Museum provided materials and resources on how to register to vote for this upcoming election.

“It’s important to remember that when we feel like we’ve been struggling, we can look back and we can see people that have survived the struggle before, and that we will make it through this and great things are for the future,” Stofer said.

The Smithsonian poster display will remain in the Stuhr building through December.

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