EVANSTON — “I have some questions for the women here. How would you feel if you were told you weren’t allowed to wear slacks? What if you were told you couldn’t finish high school or college? How would you feel if you were told you weren’t as smart as a man or you had to obey your husband?”
These questions and more were asked by Kayne Pyatt, speaker at the March Chamber of Commerce luncheon, to the women in attendance. Pyatt’s presentation focused on the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote and the year-long activities taking place in Evanston to commemorate that anniversary. Pyatt is the chair of Evanston’s 19th Amendment Anniversary committee; she is also a reporter for the Herald.
Pyatt’s remarks focused primarily on the work of some prominent suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. Many of the early suffragists were also vocal and active in the abolitionist movement to end slavery in the early- to mid-1800s. Pyatt said women like Stanton and Mott were incensed when they attended conventions on abolition and human rights and were still forced to sit in the back of the room because of their gender.
Women began to organize and in 1848 the first women’s rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York. The Declaration of Sentiments, written primarily by Stanton and based upon the Declaration of Independence, emerged from that convention.
The Declaration of Sentiments not only asserted the equality and rights of all people, but also presented 16 facts to demonstrate the ways in which women were oppressed and deprived of their unalienable rights. The Seneca Falls Convention and the publication of the Declaration of Sentiments marked the start of the women’s rights movement in the United States.
Pyatt said Anthony and Stanton toured the country to promote women’s right, including visiting Wyoming. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to guarantee women’s right to vote, which Pyatt said was primarily based on the necessity of having a larger population of voting citizens in order to be granted statehood. However, after Wyoming was officially declared a state, Congress asked the state legislature to do away with women’s suffrage and the legislature refused. Soon after, other surrounding states, including Colorado, Utah and Idaho allowed women to vote.
Pyatt said neither Stanton nor Anthony lived long enough to be able to vote themselves, since it was seven decades after the Seneca Falls Convention before Congress passed the 19th Amendment in June 1919 and it was ratified by the states in August of 1920. In fact, only one woman who attended the Seneca Falls Convention was still living to vote. Charlotte Woodward was a teenager in 1848 and was 91 years old when she was able to cast her vote in 1920.
There have already been a couple of events held so far this year as part of the year-long commemorative activities, but there are more scheduled every month this year said Pyatt.
There’s an Easter Bonnet Tea Party scheduled on April 20, the Soroptimist Lunafest on May 6 and a Suffragette Parade on June 15. There will also be movie showings at the Strand Theater on other prominent women’s right activists, with a film about Alice Paul following the parade on June 15 and a film about Margaret Sanger on July 15.
Other events are scheduled in August, September, October and November, with a final celebration party on Dec. 10, which has officially been designated as Wyoming Women’s Equality Day.
Pyatt said many people take the right to vote for granted, but she said it’s important to remember the sacrifices that were made to earn that right and others. She quoted Susan B. Anthony, who said, “We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”