August 18, 2020 marks 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, which guaranteed voting rights for women in the United States. Aspen Historical Society and Aspen Snowmass are commemorating the occasion with educational programming at Gondola Plaza in Snowmass Base Village (August 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and the historical society’s vice president Nina Gabianelli spoke to Aspen Public Radio about the significance of the anniversary.
I wanted to start by talking a little bit more broadly about the women’s suffrage movement. It’s important to note this wasn’t just a year or two of marches, but a really prolonged fight organized by women for the right to vote. As a historian, what doesn’t get talked about in this history?
Most people talk about the idea that women were granted the right to vote, which really is not exactly what happened. Women and men fought for women to receive the right to vote from 1848 right on up until the final state ratified on the 18th of August in 1920. So, it was a years and years and even generations of fighting for this suffrage. And people credit Susan B. Anthony fought a lot of this; she died in 1906. She didn’t even see the ratification come to fruition. People miss out on the fact that there were native people, African American women who were fighting for the right to vote, so it was an all encompassing community of not only women, because there were men who were in support, but largely women fighting for decades for this right.
On August 18 100 years ago the 19th Amendment was ratified which granted women the right to vote, but it didn’t extend the right to vote to all women.
No. There was an organization, it was the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and the president of it was a woman named Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, who made a speech to congress in 1917. She and the rest of the organization had to compromise and not allow African American women to be included, not allow Native women to be included in order to get the amendment passed. And it took another 45 years for other disenfranchised groups to be recognized.
And I’m glad you brought up Carrie Chapman Catt. Tell me; who was she, and she had a connection to the Roaring Fork Valley?
She spoke here at the Wheeler Opera House. It was September 23, 1893. Governor Davis Hanson Waite, or he was Governor-elect at that point, had women’s suffrage on his platform, as well. She came and she gave a speech here that prompted the men of the state of Colorado by popular vote to grant women the right to vote, if you would. It’s a curious piece of the puzzle.
Aspen Historical Society has been organizing educational programming around the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, tell me a little bit about what the organization has been doing.
The National Archives produced a wonderful pop-up display called “Rightfully Hers” that we have secured, that explores the incredible right that we won, and also the disenfranchised piece of it. It’s a different story being told today that was being told a hundred years ago.
As part of that, the Historical Society has also been helping to register voters around the 19th Amendment anniversary. It’s hard not to overlook the fact that the hundred year anniversary of the 19th Amendment falls on a presidential election year. This year all women will be able to vote unlike 100 years ago. Is there a way to quantify the significance of that?
We are a country built on the idea that the legislature works for us, but can we quantify it? I don’t know. Women who were being taxed, women who were property owners, once married lost all of those rights, and were not given any representation within the government. That’s the whole “our government by the people, of the people, for the people,” right? Abraham Lincoln. And even as far forward as Woodrow Wilson. His famous quote was, “Our democracy is for the right of those that submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” And women didn’t have a voice until 1920.