Many University of Wisconsin-Stout female students supported and worked to help pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 that granted the nationwide right for women to vote.
At what was then called Stout Institute, Gladys Harvey, daughter of President Lorenzo Dow Harvey, helped organize a women’s suffrage group on campus. The group made a Stout suffrage banner, raised money for the cause and organized meetings.
The bright yellow banner with the words “Votes for Women” was dropped from Bowman Hall Clock Tower and hung from the belfry wall as the bells tolled Aug. 26, 1920, when the amendment was ratified.
About 100 women, including Gladys Harvey, who would become a full-time instructor on campus in interior design, gathered at Second Street and Wilson Avenue along with a fife and drum corps and banners. They marched through the streets, wore white and rang bells to celebrate.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, University Archives has installed a pop-up display from the National Archives entitled Rightfully Hers. The display contains messages exploring the history of the ratification, women’s voting rights before and after and the amendment’s impact today.
The display will remain outside of University Archives, in the University Library, until mid-October. The plan is to have the lightweight and versatile exhibit travel to high-traffic areas around campus during the school year, said University Archivist Heather Stecklein.
“I think it is important to recognize our students were very involved in the local women’s suffrage movement,” Stecklein said. “Our students were pioneers. Women in higher education were a relatively rare phenomenon when the suffrage movement started. It was uncommon for women to go into postsecondary education in the early 20th century, but that is what women at Stout were doing. A lot of these women were going on to be leaders. They were going to be teachers, administrators, designers and professors. They were independent, educated and believed women should have the same opportunities as men did.”
In a picture book from 1909 to 1911 from alumna Jessie May Erlin Kaiser, a picture shows a Stout Institute student standing on a stump with the caption “Votes for Women.” This proves that women’s right to vote was on students’ minds and something they talked about, Stecklein said.
Stecklein, dressed in a 1920s reproduction of a gingham tunic that Stout Institute women students would wear and a brown apron the men would wear, said the exhibit is well-researched. “This display shows a diversity of women,” Stecklein said. “The movement was not just elites. The exhibit also offers insight into some of the movements that expressed opposition to women voting.”
The display is presented in part by the National Archives Foundation through the support of Unilever, Pivotal Ventures, Carl M. Freeman Foundation in honor of Virginia Allen Freeman, AARP and Denise Gwyn Ferguson.
To read more about the women’s suffrage movement at UW-Stout and in Dunn County, go here.
The League of Women Voters-Greater Chippewa Valley will commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at Menomonie’s Wilson Park bandshell. Stecklein plans to attend with her young daughters.
Local churches have been invited to ring their bells for one minute beginning at noon. Those attending are encouraged to bring a bell to ring, whistle to blow or other small musical items to ring. A short program with music will be held after the bell-ringing. League members are invited to wear white clothing, traditional garb for suffragists, in celebration. UW-Stout's Clock Tower bells will toll a celebratory peal to commemorate the passage.
“Women’s Equality Day is a time to reflect on the role of women in our public life and their place in history,” stated Judy Ferber, event coordinator, in a news release. “We honor the struggle of the suffragists who, through nonviolent civil-rights protests over 72 years (1848-1920), persevered in the face of strong opposition and little power. The 100th anniversary is the perfect time for both women and men to honor women’s hard-won progress as we continue to work for universal freedom, justice, equality and a more perfect democracy.”
The League of Women Voters is a citizens’ organization that has fought since 1920 to improve government and engage all citizens in the decisions that impact their lives. From the beginning, the League has been an activist, grassroots organization whose leaders believed that citizens should play a critical role in advocacy.
The celebration will take place in Wilson Park during the Menomonie Farmer’s Market, which will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the timber frame pavilion.
COVID-19’s state health guidelines need to be followed, including wearing a face covering under park structures. Wearing face coverings in other areas of the park is strongly recommended. Follow social distancing guidelines of staying at least six feet apart from other people.
The pop-up exhibit will be moved to high-traffic areas around campus to allow for students to learn the history of the women’s suffrage movement.