100 years of the 19th Amendment

Meghan Flynn
A statewide traveling exhibit on the 19th Amendment centennial is shown Oct. 29 at the Finney County Historical Museum's Front Door Gallery. The exhibit focuses on the struggle by Kansas and American women to gain the right to vote. The traveling exhibit's run in Garden City came to a close on Friday, heading to its next stop in Scott City.

It’s now been 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote.

The Finney County Historical Society & Museum hosted a traveling exhibit put together by the League of Women Voters of Kansas from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6, celebrating the 19th Amendment’s centennial anniversary.

It was supposed to be on display from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6; however, the delivery of the exhibit to Garden City was delayed due to weather-related roadway conditions.

Steve Quakenbush, Finney County Historical Society and Museum director, said the exhibit not only focused on the 19th Amendment and Women’s Suffrage on a national level, but focuses on the efforts and endeavors of women in Kansas fighting for Women’s Suffrage.

In Kansas, women won the right to vote in 1912, Quakenbush said, but in the 1800s Kansans launched a previous effort, which failed, to give women the right to vote.

“Kansas women also, even though they already had the right to vote within the state, they worked hard to get national suffrage for all women in 1920,” he said. “Those are some cool aspects. There are some things about the Right to Vote that Kansas helped pioneer.”

Quakenbush said one piece of information in the exhibit that sticks out to him is that before women in Kansas gained the right to vote, as early as 1861 they were able to vote in local school board elections and then in 1867 they could vote in statewide elections.

Also, the exhibit shows the fact that women were not just given the right to vote, they had to fight for it, Quakenbush said.

“Women in 1920 culminated a fight that they themselves carried out to win the right to vote, it wasn't like the federal government or society at large said 'oh, women, now you can vote,' ” he said. “The women went out and earned that right to vote.”

While women gained the right to vote in 1920, the exhibit also talked about the efforts that were made to protect women’s rights, which stalled until the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Even though women could legally vote in 1920, not all could, Quakenbush said. Women in minorities couldn’t vote until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act came into effect.

“That doesn't mean that there were not members of minorities able to vote some places prior to that, but that was federal legislation that guaranteed the right to vote regardless of ethnic background,” he said.

The exhibit continues its statewide tour with the next stop being in Scott City.