by ALEXANDRA RETTER
The 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote, happened earlier this month. Community members can mark the occasion by attending a reenactment next week of a women’s suffrage rally at which actors will portray Minnesotan suffragists and explain the suffragists’ experiences with working to secure women the right to vote.
The suffragists who will be portrayed represent a wide range of individuals who were involved in the suffrage movement in Minnesota, from those who were African American to those who were Norwegian American and Swedish American.
The rally will feature an actor playing Nellie Griswold Francis. Francis established an African-American suffragist group in St. Paul, Minn. Clara Ueland, who was president of the Minnesota League of Women Voters, will also be portrayed, as will Berthe Moller, who served as secretary of the Minnesota branch of the National Woman’s Party. An actor will play Emily Bright as well. Bright was president of the Political Equality Club of Minneapolis.
“But I think it’s really important people get to see this experience, because it brings it to life, what they went through, to hear their voices, their emotions, because it wasn’t easy,” said Winona State University (WSU) social work professor and League of Women Voters Winona Voters Services Co-Chair Ruth Charles. Some suffragists went on hunger strikes and were jailed, for example.
Historical reenactments allow one to gain appreciation for other parts of life as well, Charles said. After seeing an actor in a long dress in warm weather, one might be glad to be able to wear short-sleeved shirts, she noted.
Attendees may also receive assistance with voter registration and have questions about voting by mail answered, Charles noted.
The event was originally going to be held in March to acknowledge Women’s History Month, as well as the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The rally that was scheduled to take place in the spring was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Holding the event in-person now rather than virtually is meaningful, Charles said.
The rally can still take place if it is raining lightly, she added.
The event is sponsored by the WSU Foundation, the League of Women Voters Winona and the WSU Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies and Social Work departments.
The women’s suffrage rally will take place at the Winona City Bandshell on Wednesday, September 2, at 4 p.m. Attendees are asked to wear a mask and social distance.