Rockford League Of Women Voters Commemorates Anniversary of 19th Amendment Ratification
Illinois’s League of Women Voters is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the state being the first to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Earlier this month, the Illinois House passed a resolution to officially declare June 10 as Women’s Right to Vote Day. The League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford played a role in the resolution, which was created by state representative Maurice West.
It’s part of a statewide celebration of the anniversary, according to Claire McIntyre, the former president of the Rockford chapter of the League.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois held a convention last weekend with the theme “100 Years and Beyond.” McIntyre says the convention recognized history while also looking at what the league will foster in the future.
“Commemorating the women gaining the right to vote reminds us of how far we’ve come from having little control over our lives,” McIntyre said. “We now play a much more active role in shaping our communities, our state and our country.”
McIntyre also says the League of Women Voters came out of women gaining the right to vote.
“Women who fought for the right to vote understood that voting is the key way to make an impact on the critical issues facing their communities and their country,” McIntyre said.
The history of suffrage in Illinois goes back to the 1800s. In 1891, Illinois women were given the right to vote in school board elections. McIntyre says women started winning seats soon after.
“They understood how important this was, and they began running for office and winning,” McIntyre said.
Two decades later, in 1913, women were granted the right to vote in presidential elections, but they still could not vote in legislative elections at the state and national levels. Even so, Illinois became the first state east of the Mississippi to give women the right to vote for president.
Though voting was opened to women nationwide in 1920, McIntyre says poor women and women of color continue to face barriers to voting today. She also says free and fair elections are something the League continues to fight for.
“As voters, we need to fight against efforts to suppress our ability to vote,” McIntyre said. “Going forward means we need to use our power at the ballot box to, as Carrie Chapman Catt said, to ‘finish the fight.’”
McIntyre says she urges women to make their presence known at the polls.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” McIntyre said. “You have a voice, and your voice is represented by your vote, and you really need to utilize that.”
The League and other women’s groups in the Rockford area will be celebrating Right to Vote Day at an event Thursday morning at West’s office.