Women and men from across Indiana will gather in Indianapolis Thursday to celebrate a significant milestone.
Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, is the 100th anniversary of Indiana’s passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The measure granting women the right to vote had been passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, but it needed ratification by 36 states to become law. That came when Tennessee added its approval on Aug. 18, 1920.
Organized by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, Thursday’s event kicks off a yearlong celebration. League of Women Voters members and others will converge on the Statehouse for the event, which begins at 9 a.m. with remarks by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch.
The language of the amendment is simple: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”
The amendment’s passage had been a long time coming.
Suffragists had been fighting for the right to vote for nearly three-quarters of a century. The campaign had begun with an event organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in Seneca Falls, New York, and in the ensuing decades, women had marched, protested and even gone to jail.
Hoosier women had been part of the struggle from the early days. Amanda Way organized a convention in Dublin, Indiana, in October 1851, and that event led to formation of the Indiana Woman’s Rights Association, one of the nation’s first statewide organizations dedicated to the cause of women.
Susan B. Anthony made several trips to the state, including one in 1897 when she spoke to the General Assembly.
“I want the politicians of Indiana to see that there are women as well as men in this state,” she said, “and they will never see it until they give them the right to vote. Make the brain under the bonnet count for as much as the brain under the hat.”
It took more than two decades for the state’s politicians to finally embrace that message. That they finally did is a testament to the hard work and persistence of hundreds of women, many of whom did not live to see their efforts pay off.
Those women deserve our admiration and our gratitude.