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Reflecting on the legacy of women’s suffrage

Rep. Christy Stutzman (R-Middlebury) reflects on the personal meaning of the women's suffrage centennial

By Representative Christy Stutzman (R-Middlebury)

In honor of this important moment in American history, I co-authored legislation recognizing the legacy of women’s suffrage in our country.

In remembrance of the women who fought for our right to vote, House Bill 1394 establishes the Indiana Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. This commission will commemorate the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States granting women the right to vote.

My family settled in Pennsylvania almost 200 years ago, and yet my great grandmother was the first woman in my family to gain the right to vote. I am a tenth generation American, but only the third generation of women born into a country where women were able to vote in elections. Many brave American women devoted their lives to passing the Nineteenth Amendment, fighting not only for their own rights, but for the rights of future generations.

It is incumbent upon us to reflect on their work and sacrifice in securing the vote for women, especially considering that many never had the chance to cast their own ballot.  Susan B. Anthony was the most famous and visible leader in the movement. She was born into a Quaker family in Massachusetts in 1820, and according to Quaker tradition, she was given the same education and opportunity in school and in the community as a man. This led to her support of the abolitionist movement and her bold activism on behalf of other political causes. In spite of the fact that she was not married, Anthony traveled to 54 of the 60 New York counties, gathering signatures on a petition to pass a law allowing married women to own property. The law passed but was unfortunately rescinded the next year by the same men who passed it. It was then that Anthony and the other suffrage leaders realized that without the ability to vote, women would not have a true voice in their own government. With this realization, the Women’s Suffrage movement was born.

Indiana was the 26th state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment and it is an honor to recognize those who fought to give women the right to vote. With the establishment of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, I am excited to join in raising awareness about our history and the exciting work that took place in Indiana to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment during that time. As a female legislator, I seek to carry on their legacy and help all Hoosiers to have a voice in their government. I also seek to honor the seven generations of women in my family who never got the chance to cast their own ballot. My 8 times great grandmother, Sarah Walker, listed on the rolls of DAR Revolutionary Patriots, spoke these words as she died and they continue to guide me as I serve District 49: Be valiant for truth. The truth of the work that many suffragists left behind is shown each time I cast my ballot and each time I speak on behalf of the citizens in our district. May we never forget their work or take their sacrifices for granted.

This essay was reposted by permission from Representative Stutzman. It was originally published on 28 February 2019.