An open forum was held Thursday to celebrate the centennial of women having the right to vote and to urge for the protection of voting rights across the country.
The forum was put on by the League of Women Voters of Ohio in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Athens County. Dr. Treva B. Lindsey and Dr. Katherine Jellison led the forum at Christ Lutheran Church.
Lindsey, author of “Colored No More” and professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Ohio State University, along with Jellison, professor and chair of the history department at Ohio University, spoke about the history of the suffragist movement and the continued fight for voting rights in the United States.
The forum started off by clarifying that suffragist was the term used to describe those pushing for the vote in the United States, while suffragette was used to describe the British movement. Lindsey and Jellison also shared that intersectionality would be the approach of this year’s commemoration to include discussions on how racism, sexism and classism affects voter rights.
“There really is a range of ways to think about the important historical moment that the 19th Amendment is kind of a culmination of and everything that happens after that so we’re still having conversations about voting,” Lindsey said.
The conversation centered around how the abolitionist movement and women’s movement went hand-in-hand. Most women’s rights activists started out as abolitionists, Jellison said.
“Women exercised a political identity even when they did not have the right to vote,” Jellison said.
It wasn’t until the fifteenth amendment was ratified that women began to work towards getting the right to vote.
Before the American Revolution, property-owning women could vote and even run for office. It wasn’t until the nation came together that there was a restriction of rights. That made women fight for the rights they once had, Lindsey said.
Lindsey and Jellison also talked about the dangers involved for people fighting for the right to vote. Often, activists were thrown in jail for their activism and force-fed through tubes after refusing meals.
“There’s threats against their lives,” Lindsey said. “They have to think about family differently because of that. So if something is that of great risk to people and people still chose to show up, what must the vote mean to them?”
Lindsey and Jellison also talked about the changing political atmosphere and how the U.S. is starting to see different types of candidates, reflecting the different interests of the American public. Those changes are most obvious at the state and local levels.
Voting rights being an ongoing struggle against voter suppression and voter purges was also a topic of discussion.
“We should do our part to make sure that those kinds of voter suppression policies are resisted to the best of our abilities and I think that this organization is doing that,” Jellison said.
Jellison said a traveling exhibit called “Ohio Women Vote: 100 years of change” will becoming to the area from March 16 to April 26, 2020. The exhibit will spend the first three weeks at the Southeast Ohio History Center and the following three weeks at Alden Library at OU.