19th Amendment centennial celebration set for Jan. 11 in Albany
ALBANY – “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence,” a centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Albany First Christian Church, 432 Ferry St. S.W.
"This will be fun and informative,” says event organizer Christine Webb. “It’s a great way to not only learn more about this period of Oregon's history but to celebrate an accomplishment that was more than a half-century in the making.”
Oregon has a long and contentious suffrage history. The men in the state voted six times before finally passing, in 1912, a state bill that allowed most Oregon women to vote. Oregon’s leading advocate for women’s suffrage was Abigail Scott Duniway, who lived in Albany at one time. After passage of the law that year, Gov. Oswald West asked Duniway to write the Equal Suffrage Proclamation. She did, and both West and Duniway signed it.
Women’s suffrage was a heated and often contentious debate. Would allowing women to vote bring unwanted change for men? Would it change the women? Their commitment to their families? Their communities? The country? And even in the women's ranks there was division. Black women, who had been organizing for decades, were often relegated to the "back of the parade." Poor, working, rural, uneducated and Native American women's voices often went unheard. One side supported state-by-state legislation, the other a constitutional amendment.
In the end, coalitions formed and the hard work produced results, when, after more than a half-century of advocacy, the US Senate passed the 19th amendment to the Constitution (by two votes), guaranteeing most women the right to vote. Oregon's vote to ratify that amendment, in January 1920 – the 25th state to do so – helped the eventual passage of the amendment on Aug. 18 of that year.
The Albany celebration will include talks by Kimberley Jensen, professor of History and Gender Studies at Western Oregon University; Sharon Konopa, mayor of Albany; Fay Stetz-Waters, director of Civil Rights in the Oregon Department of Justice; and Monica Bielski Boris, labor council representative (AFSCME). These women will speak about the history of women's suffrage in Oregon and across the country, the intersection of working women and voting rights, civil rights challenges since women gained the vote and personal journeys and challenges as women forged their way into the public sphere.
Also included will be period music by the Crazed Weasel String Band, dramas and historical vignettes. Costumes and signs are encouraged. All participants are invited to join a march around the downtown area at the conclusion.
The event is sponsored by the Linn County Women's Rally, the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters and Albany First Christian Church.