‘Rightfully Hers’ on display in Lyons

Messenger Post Media
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Wayne County Historian Peter Evans and John Zornow, commissioner of the Wayne County Board of Elections, with the "Rightfully Hers" display at the Wayne County Public Safety Building.

“Rightfully Hers,” a pop-up exhibition from the National Archives commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, is on display in the lobby of the Wayne County Public Safety Building, 7376 state Route 31, Lyons.

The display explores the history of the Amendment’s ratification, women’s voting rights before and after the 19th Amendment, and it’s impact today. “Rightfully Hers” runs through at least Aug. 26.

“The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a landmark moment in American history that dramatically changed the electorate,” co-curator Jennifer Johnson said. “Although it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution fuller citizenship for women, many remained unable to vote.”

In June 1919, both houses of Congress approved the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. All that was necessary was to have 36 states ratify the amendment. By the summer of 1920, 35 states voted to approve the ratification.

In Tennessee, the Senate had approved but the issue raged in the Legislature. Every vote resulted in a tie. On Aug. 18, they were set to try again. A representative by the name of Harry Burns had a letter from his mother, Phoebe, who said she “knew he would do the right thing.” Burns proceeded to cast the deciding affirmative vote in favor of ratification and Tennessee became the 36th state to approve ratification.

Four panels comprise the pop-up exhibit: “Before the 19th Amendment,” “How Did Women Win the Vote?,” “A Constitutional Victory” and “What Voting Rights Struggles Persist?”

When the nation’s founders drafted the Constitution in 1787, they made no mention of women. At the time, women were excluded from political and — in many ways — public life. Enslaved women were excluded entirely.

To win access to the polls, a group of suffragists fought for more than 70 years using different strategies that eventually won the political support necessary for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

Even after ratification, millions of women remained unable to vote. Voting rights continued to expand over the next 100 years and the fight continues. Records and information documenting the Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S. are available at archives.gov/women.