Each month we’ll feature a Q&A with one of the commissioners of the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. July’s feature: Matt Walsh
Q: Why is it important for the state to mark the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage?
A: Celebrations and traditions connect us to our past. The past is where our mistakes and accomplishments were made, and we need the past to learn from and continue to grow as humans and as a society. Growth is our ability to have empathy for others, our communities, our world. Celebrating women’s suffrage is about hope. We can recall the work, the effort, the pain and the joy of the women and men who understood the need to have women share in the rights to be a part of the democratic process. We still need the hope that women’s suffrage brought to the United States. We need this hope to inspire us to become more inclusive with Americans who are disenfranchised.
Q: As the Curriculum Specialist for Indiana Department of Education, how would you encourage schools across the state to promote and celebrate this important milestone in our state and nation’s history?
A: The Women’s Centennial Celebration Suffrage Commission is working diligently to educate Indiana teachers about this celebratory year. Several groups have partnered together, including Indiana Humanities, Indiana State Museum, Girl Scouts Inc., and Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), to provide lessons, toolkits and professional development for Indiana’s educators. More information about these resources and opportunities may be found at the Indiana Humanities website. IDOE will promote this via Twitter.
This year is the perfect opportunity for teachers to develop thematic units inspired by the women’s suffrage movement. At the elementary level, units can include the various content areas. Secondary educators should seize the opportunity to use the women’s suffrage movement to grow Indiana’s youth in their civic duties. The timing of this celebration lends itself for engaging students in discourse, debate and dialogue.
Q: Who is a woman who has inspired you in your life and/or career?
A: My mother, Diane Whittinghill Walsh, is the woman who continues to inspire me. She taught me about empathy for others because of the actions and the choices she made. She modeled support for others by volunteering in the community, by teaching me about how my actions impact others, by celebrating family and friends and by making sacrifices.
Q: How can we encourage Hoosiers to further exercise their right to vote and participate fully in the democratic process?
A: In a recent study that I heard on National Public Radio (NPR), data shared pointed out that many Hoosiers do not take part in the voting process, but it also pointed out that Hoosiers tend to provide more charitable support than most other states. That indicates to me that Hoosiers understand that taking care of our communities is one way we can take part in the democratic process.
Being an active participant in the democratic process, including voting, requires action and sacrifice. It takes time to vote. It takes time and energy to become informed. It takes effort to read and listen with a critical eye and ear. It does take effort to understand points of view and sources. A democracy requires sharing some of our own humanity in order to ensure that this republic can sustain itself and prosper. Democracy is an active process, both internally and externally.