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Suffrage | Wisconsin Historical Society

Women's Suffrage Centennial Celebration | BIG History

Women's History Month

Celebrating Big Moments: 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

One hundred years ago this month, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, prohibiting state and federal governments from denying the right to vote on the basis of gender. Over one year earlier, Wisconsin became the first state to ratify this amendment, on June 10, 1919. This historic moment was the culmination of decades of efforts from many different women's rights groups that had been working since 1846.

In August we honor the Wisconsin women who worked tirelessly to obtain the vote. The Society has put together a page with stories, images, and artifacts from our suffrage collections to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment. These collections just scratch the surface of the history of the suffrage movement in Wisconsin. Please take an opportunity to explore these resources below.

The Fight for Suffrage Continued

It is important to acknowledge that the women's suffrage movement did not guarantee voting rights for everyone. The women involved in the movement did not advocate for women of color nor were they included in suffrage efforts. African American women like Harriet Tubman, Mary Terrell Church, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Ida B. Wells were just as passionate as their white counterparts, but their stories and impact are often excluded.

American Indians did not receive full U.S. citizenship until the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which did not automatically guarantee Native people the right to vote. Despite the 15th Amendment declaring it unconstitutional to deny citizens the right to vote on the basis of race, many states continued to use other means to deny American Indians their voting rights well into the middle of the 20th century.

We hope this content helps you learn more about the women's suffrage movement while acknowledging that, for many Americans, the passage of the 19th amendment was just the beginning of the struggle for voting rights.

“We Stand On Their Shoulders” | A History Of Wisconsin Women & Voting

Take a virtual walk through the Wisconsin Historical Museums's exhibit about Suffrage in Wisconsin!

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Learn More About the Exhibit and How You Can Bring It To You!

Suffragist holding the women's suffrage flag on a yellow background

Women's Suffrage Traveling Exhibit

Bernice Lindsay Posing with the Street Sign Named after Her, 1974. Bernice worked as an activist and community leader in Milwaukee.

Women's Suffrage Traveling Exhibit Events

Two white women, in black and white, surrounded by a blue background and the US Constitution superimposed over the blue.

Women's Suffrage Traveling Exhibit Toolkit

A poster issued by the Milwaukee County League of Women Voters in the 1920s urging women to vote.

Wisconsin Historical Museum's Women's Suffrage Exhibit

Explore More Suffrage History

Learn more about the women’s suffrage movement in Wisconsin and beyond through these historical essays.

A group of women and one man stand around a car and the US Flag in a black and white photos

The Women's Suffrage Movement

A sepia portrait of Ada James

Ada James

A black and white portrait of Olympia Brown

Olympia Brown

A sepia portrait of Theodora Youmans

Theodora Winton Youmans

More Historical Essays

First in the Nation: A collection of artifacts about ratifying the 19th amendment | Belle Case La Follette | Jessie Jessie Annette Jack Hooper | Lutie Eugenia Stearns | Meta Schlichting Berger | Wisconsin Magazine of History Suffrage Article

Fascinating Items From Our Historical Collections

The Society has hundreds of items related to the women’s suffrage movement available to explore in our online collections. Here are a few highlights. To view the entire collection click here.

Parade tunic worn by Wisconsin suffrage supporter, 1916

Women's Suffrage Tunic

Ballot Box used in Town of Weston, Clark County, Wisconsin, ca. 1915.

Ballot Box

Map depicting the states where there was partial, equal, or no suffrage for Women.

Women's Suffrage Map

More Historical Items

Interview with Olympia Brown’s Daughter | Newspaper Clippings | Suffrage Documents

Compelling Images from the Society's Historical Collections

Portrait of Belle Case LaFollette

Suffrage Photo Collection

A black and white portrait photographic of Carrie Chapman

Carrie Chapman Catt Image Gallery

Poster issued by the Milwaukee County League of Women Voters that graphically urges women to vote.

Suffrage Posters

A white man and white woman stand at a ballot box casting their votes in this illustrated print.

Suffrage Postcards

Classroom Resources

Several buttons are arranged in a circle, all with slogans, photographs, or symbols related to women's suffrage. Caption reads: Badge collection of Alice Park of Palo Alto, California, 1913 — all 'Votes for Women.'

Understanding Bias

Members of the Political Equality League in an early Ford automobile draped with bunting reading 'Votes for Women.'' In the front seat is Mrs. B.C. Gudden. In the back seat, left to right, are Ruth Fitch, Bertha Pratt King, and Helen Mann.

Primary Source Analysis

Ring in 100 Years with our Women's Suffrage Shop!

Shop suffrage related merchandise from our online store. 100% of the proceeds support the Society.

Shop Suffrage Merch
Commemorative Women's Suffrage Bell

Centennial Suffrage Bell

Votes for Women Ceramic Mug

Votes for Women Mug

Votes for Women Pillow

Votes for Women Pennant Pillow

The Woman Voter

Women's Suffrage Posters

Virtual Women's Suffrage Centennial Celebration. On Aug 26, 2020 at noon CST, 10am PST, 11am MST, 1pm EST.

Past Virtual Women's Suffrage Centennial Celebration

On Aug. 26, when Secretary of State Colby announced the successful passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Carrie Chapman Catt asked that whistles and bells be sounded at noon. On Aug. 26, and the days that followed, cities across the United States celebrated by ringing bells and whistles at noon.

Suffragists Wore White

Purple, gold, and white were the colors worn by American suffragists during parades and marches. While colorful sashes and pins were also worn, white dresses stood out in a crowd and were a distinctive statement of the movement.

Explore photos from the event with these hashtags

  • #WomensVote100
  • #WIVotesforWomen
  • #BIGHistoryIsHappening

Support the Preservation of Women's History

Make a big impact

Make a BIG impact by supporting the Society's efforts to continue to collect, preserve, and share stories about women's history, and all Wisconsin history.

Explore Wisconsin's History

You can find out more about our history in these pages focusing on other monthly celebrations!

Explore Black History in Wisconsin

Black History

Explore Women's History in Wisconsin

Women's History

Explore WHS's Response to COVID-19

History Is Happening

Explore Earth Day History in Wisconsin

Earth Day History

Explore Pride Month History in Wisconsin

Pride History

Explore the Wisconsin's History during WWII

Wisconsin During WWII

Explore the Wisconsin's Political History

Political History

Explore Hispanic Heritage Historyin Wisconsin

Hispanic Heritage History

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