“Woman Suffrage Headquarters,” Cleveland, Ohio, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Megan Wood, Director of Cultural Resources, Ohio History Connection, Columbus, OH

At the Ohio History Connection, we are primarily concerned with supporting a statewide commemoration of the suffrage centennial and making sure all Ohioans have an opportunity to encounter programming, to understand what the 19th Amendment is, and that representations of suffrage include many aspects of the movement. We also want to use this opportunity to look beyond 1920 and explore how women have used their voice, activism, and leadership to make a change in the world.

The Ohio History Connection has been working with partners for the last year to support the commemoration of the suffrage centennial. Partners include the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Humanities. In the fall of 2018, the three partners worked on a listening tour of Ohio to understand what local organizations needed in order to present programming around the 19th Amendment. Out of that listening tour came a few pieces of programming.

  • The League of Women Voters of Ohio put together a reading list and book discussion guide that looks at the suffrage fight from the perspective of African American women.
  • The Ohio History Connection also put together a pull up banner traveling exhibit that asks questions related to suffrage and women’s history that is going to communities all over Ohio. At the Ohio History Center, labels that indicate that existing material has a woman’s story were installed around the museum. This was a fairly simple tactic that didn’t require huge changes to the galleries, but showed the voices of women already present in the museum.
  • The reading lists, discussion guide, and exhibit are all funded in part by Ohio Humanities.

Description of women’s history panels at the beginning of the OHC exhibit.

The state passed legislation to create an Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission with representatives from Ohio Humanities, Ohio History Connection, and the League of Women Voters of Ohio. The commission has created an events page that all organizations can add to and that anyone can view to see suffrage related activities around the state.

In our work statewide, we often hear about the difficulties of finding stories of local suffragists. By broadening the scope of the time period, it allows us to lift up the names of women who were firsts in their community and show that women’s history is Ohio history is local history.

At the end of 2020, my hope is that we’ve improved the “infrastructure” around women’s history in Ohio. Communities and organizations will have identified more stories to add to the narrative of their town or city. Ohioans will have heard the names of women who have made a difference. The commission’s work will result in a legacy project that will go beyond the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. I think this can be accomplished not only with grand events, but also through grassroots projects.

For more information about the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, please visit our website or get in touch with me at mwood@ohiohistory.org.

To learn more about our Women’s History Affinity Community, visit their webpage.