Remembering the Fight for Women’s Suffrage

This post is by Amanda Campbell, an undergraduate student at University of Memphis and a 2019 Library of Congress Junior Fellow.

Pageant celebrating the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. H.L. Standley, 1923

Sixty years after the first organized calls for women’s suffrage at Seneca Falls, New York, the 19th Amendment still had not passed. A celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention was organized by the daughters and descendants of early leaders who had since died. Younger activists, such as Harriot Stanton Blatch and Mary Church Terrell, represented advocates who had died. The last twenty years of the Women’s Suffrage movement were led by a different group of activists than those who led the first fifty years, but by celebrating the anniversaries of the first convention, these later activists remained committed to the goals of the early movement.

The plans and program of the 60th Anniversary Celebration reveal to some extent how the first Convention was remembered. Show one or both of these documents to your students and ask them about this celebration:

  • How do you think people felt about attending this celebration?
  • What do you think happened at this celebration?
  • What kinds of things do we celebrate? Why do we celebrate these things?
  • How could we find out more about this celebration or about the first convention?

Women’s Rights Day celebration: 55 years Since Women Won the Vote: A Look at our Struggle. Feminist Coordinating Council, 1975

Suffragists also celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention after the 19th Amendment passed. Invite your students to examine this picture from the 75th anniversary pageant and ask them what they think this celebration was like. After talking about these sources, ask your students how they would plan an anniversary celebration for something important. Would they read speeches like at the 60th Anniversary celebration or would they carry banners like the 75th anniversary photograph?

The passage of the 19th Amendment is also celebrated each year. This poster from 1975 announces a 55th anniversary celebration. The Library of Congress is celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 19th Amendment this year with a new exhibit.

What events do your students think are important to remember and celebrate? Share with us in the comments below!

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