If you want to learn about the history of women in the land of the free, there is no better place to go than to the memory bank of America: The National Archives. There is also no better time than now: as 2019 comes around the corner, so does the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution, giving women in American the right to vote. Now, imagine an exhibit documenting and celebrating the generations-long fight for women’s suffrage in America, complete with primary sources from the suffragette’s era to transport you back to 1919 and resurrect history. The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, is launching just that.
“Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote” commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment by digging into American women’s fight for voting rights across the spectrum of race, ethnicity, and class. This detailed retelling of the voting rights movement will reveal what it really takes to win the vote for one-half of a country’s people. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “The best protection any woman can have… is courage.”
Corinne Porter, the curator for “Rightfully Hers,” sees the exhibit as a “true honor to get to share the important story that Rightfully Hers tells about the struggle for women’s voting rights.”
Porter, a curator at the National Archives for the last six years, says she feels the best part of her job is seeing the impact the exhibits have on the public. Specifically for “Rightfully Hers,” Porter says, “This is a topic that I believe a lot of people, women especially, feel a strong personal connection to, so I am very much looking forward to seeing visitors engage with exhibition and the connections they make with the history of the women’s voting rights struggle.”
Before you step into history at the National Archives’ museum, it’s important to have some background on just what happened during 1919 and 1920. “The ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 was a landmark moment in American history and a critical step in securing greater equality for American women,” Porter says. “However, as Rightfully Hers demonstrates, the amendment did not give all women the right to vote.”
Pause for a moment on that last part. How could the 19th amendment not give all women equality? As Porter goes on to explain, “Millions of women were made voters by their states before 1920, but millions of women still struggled for the right and ability to vote for decades after the 19th Amendment.” That continued struggle is what “Rightfully Hers” will examine and explain through original film, photos, and documents.
The exhibit will also shine a light on the importance of voting as a civic duty, and why it is critical to never take your right to vote for granted. “Rightfully Hers” will tell stories of the consequences faced by non-voting populations, and even offer voter registration directly from the Museum.
For more information on “Rightfully Hers,” you can visit the National Archives online, view more resources on women’s history, or view a press release mentioning the exhibit here. The exhibit is free and opens to the public on March 8, 2019, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.