One hundred years ago, on August 26, women of the United States celebrated the final ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. This year Historic Fort Steuben commemorates that achievement with an exhibit entitled Ohio Women Vote: 100 Years of Change which will be on display from March 2-9, Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm or by appointment. An additional exhibit on Women of Steubenville and Ohio will continue until March 13.
This exhibit produced by the Ohio History Connections and Ohio Humanities Council brings the movement up to date. It not only celebrates the efforts of the women who worked for the right to vote, but also highlights the century of women’s activism that followed.
To bring the exhibit to life, girls and women, who visit the exhibit, are invited to get their pictures taken carrying Women’s Suffrage signs before a panorama of 1910 Steubenville. Students are encouraged to develop a three-minute ‘soap box speech’ to be presented when they visit.
The Ohio History Connection exhibit consists of twelve panels and poses thoughtful questions (such as “What does it mean to be a woman?” and “What does voting give you the power to do?”) to historic and contemporary Ohio women in activism. Their answers help the viewer learn that the 19th Amendment was not the end of women’s activism; it was the beginning. Voting enabled women to further their education, pursue careers, change laws, create social service and cultural organizations, and run for office themselves.
Women’s right to vote is something taken for granted today. But when our national government was first formed, women did not have that right. It took over 130 years for the dream of equal voting rights for women to become a reality but not without real struggles. In the days before automobiles, airplanes, telephones and computers, women traveled the country giving lectures, printing leaflets, organizing protests and parades. The efforts and dedication were incredible.
Many of the suffragettes, as they were called, were also active in the movement to end slavery which was finally achieved with the 13th Amendment in 1865. Many of the methods used to promote abolition were then applied to the equal voting rights efforts.
Voting was only part of the issue. Women could not own property in their own name if they were married. They could not leave an abusive husband who had all the property in his name. Women were often considered property rather than equal human beings.
The Nineteenth Amendment was passed by Congress in 1919. Ohio was the fifth state to ratify the amendment on June 16, 1919.
Visitors are invited to view the exhibit of Women’s History Month at the Fort Steuben Visitor Center, 120 S. 3rd Street, Steubenville. For more information call 740-283-1787.