2020 marks 100 years since women in the United States earned the right to vote. The fight for the 19th Amendment followed more than 70 years of struggle that included everything from marches and protests to beatings, hunger strikes and force feeding.
Today, some advocates worry that history has been lost. To mark the ratification of the 19th Amendment, public and private organizations are teaming up to organize events to commemorate the centennial all year long and across the state.
West Virginia Women's Commission, the state Secretary of State's office, and the state Division of Culture and History are working with private groups and organizations to host a series of events including plays, an opera and film showings including the Ken Burns documentary “Not For Ourselves Alone” and the feature film “Iron Jawed Angels.”
West Virginia played an important role in ensuring women had the right to vote, according to Renate Pore, the project director for the Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women Centennial Celebration.
“When Congress passed the national amendment to the constitution it had to be ratified by 36 states and West Virginia became the 34th state to ratify it,” she said.
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Rita Ray, a past president of the Kanawha Valley chapter of the National Organization for Women, said it is important to remember the struggle women faced and fight they endured to obtain the right to vote, especially at a time when voter participation is low.
“I do not remember learning about the suffrage movement when I was in public school or in college, and I took a lot of history classes,” she said. “It's a good lesson knowing about this struggle, how important it is for everyone to take advantage of their right to vote, and also to resist any efforts to curtail that and take away and restrict the access to the vote.”
The Secretary of State’s office is hosting a comprehensive calendar of events on their webpage.
Listen to Renate Pore discuss the history of ratifying the 19th Amendment in West Virginia and the unusual steps the governor and the state senate had to take to make it happen.