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Work/Life/In Focus: Women Empowerment

Author: Christina Riccioni
April, 2019 Issue

100 Years Later—Celebrating the Right to Vote


The sight of Congresswomen adorned in white at the 2019 State of the Union address was unforgettable. It was a tribute to the Suffrage movement by women in the early 20th century who wore white during demonstrations. The timing was no mere coincidence as the country approaches the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in August 1920.

Undoubtedly, this great American achievement will be celebrated across the nation and in the North Bay.  KSRO’s Pat Kerrigan and her colleague, B Fernandez, creative director of Studio B, are at the helm of an exciting project: developing the framework for Women Empowerment 2020: WE-2020. According to Fernandez, the plan is to ring in the year of the woman like never before.

A complex history

To fully appreciate the importance of next year’s celebration, it’s critical to first understand the extensive and complex history of the American Suffrage movement. Before the enactment of the 19th Amendment, certain states, such as New Jersey in 1790, had already allowed women to vote. However in 1807, due to alleged voting fraud by men who dressed up as women to vote twice, the progressive law was slashed from the New Jersey state constitution, and women were once again faced with a challenging setback. Not easily defeated, activists, men included, continued to fight for equal rights, eventually leading the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in New York.

This momentous gathering resulted in the popular opinion that women deserved to have their voices recognized in the political arena. Following the Civil War and the enactments of the 14th and 15th Amendments, woman-suffrage activists pushed harder to secure the vote for women, which resulted in the establishment of the National American Women Suffrage Association. By 1910, Idaho and Utah had already granted women the right to vote, but the southern and eastern regions of the nation stood firm in opposition. Nevertheless, the activists surged forward with grit and determination, and on August 26, 1920, after a tireless struggle, history was made and the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Sonoma County: WE-2020

A century later, Kerrigan and Fernandez are part of a coalition of women working to ensure the remarkable efforts of suffrage activists are rightfully commemorated. The WE-2020 project focuses on three points: honoring the past, celebrating the present and advocating for all women of the future. Sonoma County played a large role in progressing female empowerment. In 1978, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women spearheaded the creation of National Women’s History Month, which is celebrated in March.

In 1979, Sonoma County resident, Molly MacGregor, founder of the National Women’s History Project, attended a gathering of fellow advocates at The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and initially pushed for a nationally recognized “Women’s History Week.” Later, a further effort was made to establish Women’s History Month and in 1987, Congress declared that March would be that month.

Sonoma County is primed to celebrate the great successes of our female forbearers this coming year. Kerrigan and Fernandez describe the efforts of women like MacGregor as catalysts for women empowerment. Kerrigan and Fernandez believe that women want more than a “seat at the table.” They are certain that WE-2020 will shine a light on what women have accomplished, the impact they currently have in the community, and the positive and lasting affect women empowerment will have on the future.

Currently, they’re working to give local businesses an opportunity to get involved as WE-2020 sponsors. The project will create events/programs focusing on women empowerment that will be woven through the fabric of the entire county. One important aspect of the project stressed by Kerrigan and Hernandez is that WE-2020 is not a political project, but rather a celebration that reflects women in all walks of life. WE-2020 will feature encouragement to register to vote at each location. Says Kerrigan, “Here in Sonoma County, we will set the bar as the catalyst for change. Let’s make history, again!”

Get Involved!

Join WE-2020 and be among the first women-owned, or women-friendly businesses, to sponsor programs and/or events that advocate for all women in Sonoma County. For more information, contact Fernandez at b@we2020.org, or Kerrigan at pat@we-2020.org. Events will mark the centennial nationwide.

 

 

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