HUNTINGTON — With 2020 just around the corner, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner announced the formation of a committee designed to plan year-long, statewide celebrations commemorating the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave women in the United States the right to vote.
Faculty and staff at Marshall University are among those involved in spearheading local events and celebrations for the coming year.
“Marshall and community leaders are all working together to plan these various events,” said Kat Williams, professor of U.S. women’s history at Marshall. “There will be marches, there will be speeches and there will be a number of different, exciting events.”
Williams said one of the committee’s main goals is to bring the milestone to the attention of those who may be unaware of its importance.
“A lot of people don’t know that 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, and they have a lot of misconceptions about it,” Williams said. “Women fought for 72 years to gain the right to vote; the women’s suffrage movement started in 1848, so this was a really long fight. This is a significant piece of legislation that we’re celebrating.”
Williams is teaching a one-time class during the spring 2020 semester as part of Marshall’s celebration of women’s suffrage. The class will discuss the history of women in the country since the passage of the amendment 100 years ago.
“What we’ve done in that 100 years since women gained the right to vote has been remarkable,” Williams said.
Helen Gibbins, president of the League of Women Voters of the Huntington Area, said it is also playing a significant role in the planning of both local and statewide events.
“We’re working with Marshall University and we’re working with a statewide group,” Gibbins said.
Gibbins said some of the smaller events will lead up to a parade on Women’s Equality Day in August 2020, which will begin on Marshall’s campus.
The League of Women Voters has also performed a “Right to Vote” Reader’s Theater in years prior, and Gibbins said this year the group will make a special effort to include more information about women’s suffrage.
A complete list of events statewide will be produced by the Secretary of State’s Office and will be released at the start of the new year.
“It’s important that people know about it and it’s important that kids are learning about it in school; it’s like a free history lesson,” Williams said of the commemoration. “We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women in this country having full citizenship rights, and it doesn’t get much larger than that.”