One hundred years after American women gained the right to vote, campus and community partners are celebrating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment becoming reality, while at the same time examining the continued fight for universal suffrage.

Women won access to the voting booth with ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. (Image: Bentley Historical Library)
Women won access to the voting booth with ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. (Image: Bentley Historical Library)

The centennial of women’s suffrage comes as U-M prepares to host a presidential debate in October and as Americans head to the polls Nov. 3. Undergraduate and graduate courses, guest speakers, musical concerts, panel discussions and voter registration drives are planned throughout the year.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate, learn and vote. We want to have a backward glance as well as think about contemporary issues of voter access and where we might be going in the future,” said Anne Manuel, a lecturer in political science and one of the organizers of U-M Suffrage 2020.

Planners include LSA, CEW+, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the LSA political science, women’s studies, English and history departments, the Bentley Historical Library, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service, ADVANCE, Wallace House, the Center for Social Solutions, and the League of Women Voters.

Organizers are exploring the struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment and, despite its passage, the fact that not all women were allowed to vote after 1920. African-American women, for example, were shut out of the voting booth in the South.

“There are still groups of women — and groups of men as well — who are denied the vote in the United States today even though they qualify to vote. We want to shine a light on the fact that the struggle isn’t over,” said Abigail Stewart, Sandra Schwartz Tangri Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies.

Highlights of U-M Suffrage 2020 include:

  • Classes in political science, law, sociology, Afroamerican and African studies, history, art and design, psychology, women’s studies and other disciplines that explore voting rights, election laws, racial and gender inequalities in democratic systems, and more. Courses are being offered this semester and in the fall.
  • A Feb. 24 talk by Corrine McConnaughy, associate professor of political science at George Washington University and author of “The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment.” 
  • “Continuing Challenges to Suffrage in Michigan in 2020: Who Still Can’t Vote?” a March 16 panel discussion. Speakers will be representatives of Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Detroit Disability Power, Mothering Justice, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan, and the Michigan House of Representatives.
  • “Let Woman Choose Her Sphere,” a March 17 U-M Concert Band performance featuring a repertoire of female composers and a world premiere by composer Valerie Coleman. The evening will also include a carillon concert, a “Liberty Awakes” exhibit showcasing the work of area women during the suffrage movement, and a pre-concert lecture with conductor Courtney Snyder and Coleman.
  • A March 23 talk by Justice Anita Earls of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is founder and former executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Organizers also are encouraging students to register to vote as part of the Big Ten Voting Challenge.