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CT Historical Society Honoring 100 Years of Women Voting

NBC Universal, Inc.

Casting a ballot is a modern right for women in America.

“We are such a large part of the population that we carry political weight,” said Ilene Frank, chief curator and chief operating officer of the Connecticut Historical Society.

But getting here was a long fight. The Women’s Suffrage movement and 100 years of the right to vote are now on display at the Connecticut Historical Society.

 “It talks of course about women, white and African American and Indigenous women who worked toward achieving ratification of the 19th Amendment,” Frank explained.

It’s called “A Vote of Her Own,” and the historians behind it tell NBC Connecticut they set out to share a more complete story of all the women in Connecticut who played a part.

“We’re looking for the voices that haven’t been brought up and haven’t been elevated and celebrated as much as they should have,” said Karen Li Miller, a research historian with the Connecticut Historical Society.

They’ve scoured the state including the New Haven Museum to find those stories not often told.

“When we talk about women of color, they are right there, on the front lines, very much involved,” said Brittney Yancy, assistant professor of humanities at Goodwin University.

Yancy is researching the role of Black women in the effort and said women often organized in local clubs, many under the National Association for Colored Women.

“They considered the vote as this kind of conduit to making changes in their communities that they were passionate about,” said Yancy. Some of those efforts were around supporting men in World War I and fighting against lynchings.

Researchers have published 25 biographies of Black women in Connecticut, including Sarah Fleming, who was an organizer in New Haven and led the charge for unionizing.

“She wears many hats, but she understands the power of the vote and she organizes, particularly the clubs in Connecticut, around that agenda,” said Yancy.

To pass the 19th Amendment, 36 states needed to ratify the women’s right to vote. Connecticut was number 37. Catherine Flanagan submitted the official certificate to U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby in the fall of 1920.

Today, historians say the work protecting it continues.

“We have to always fight to make sure American citizens who are eligible to vote have the opportunity to vote, and we need to encourage as many people to vote as possible,” said Frank.

And as she votes in-person tomorrow, she’s thinking about the power women have had at the voting booth over the last 100 years.

“There are a number of elections you can look to where women have voted in different directions and have changed the outcome of an election,” said Frank. “We are a powerful group of voters, and we should come together when we can on issues because when we get behind in those numbers, we can change many things in our society.”

If you have any historic information you’d like to share for this project, you can submit the details to the Connecticut Historical Society through its website.

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