Learn about the fight for women's voting rights in Kansas City and beyond.
Learn about the fight for women's voting rights in Kansas City and beyond.

Women's Voting Rights in KC 🗳️

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which declared:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” On August 26, 1920, the amendment became law and now we celebrate that day as Women’s Equality Day every year.

Kansas City was right in the thick of the debate. Even before Kansas’ statehood, activists campaigned for equal suffrage in the state, while Missouri’s suffrage leaders kept the topic aflame at both the local and national levels.

To honor the centennial, regional organizations peacefully assembled a host of ways to acknowledge and celebrate the occasion, many partnering to share their information and events, collected at 19at100.org.

Due to COVID-19, some of the planned events have shifted online, but we’ve selected some local and national options to get you in the mood to vote. You are registered to vote, right?
1. Local Leaders in the Fight
Suffrage leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton campaigned in the region — and adopted the Kansas sunflower as a symbol of the movement. 🌻

But we also had our own local suffrage leaders, such as Carrie Langston Hughes, Sarah Chandler Coates and Alma Nash, who led the Missouri Women’s Military Band in the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C. You can learn more about the “Show-Me Suffragists” in this podcast 🎧 from the State Historical Society of Missouri.

In Kansas, women had been voting in school board elections since statehood in 1861 and earned full suffrage across the state in 1912, making it the 8th state to allow women to vote in national elections. 🗳️ In 1887, citizens in Kansas elected the first woman mayor in the United States, Susanna Salter.

The Women’s Suffrage Association of Missouri was founded in 1867 and state suffrage for women happened in March 1919. Many local women’s clubs, such as the Kansas City Anthenaeum
 contributed to the fight for suffrage.

Teach your children (or students) about some of our region’s local leaders with the Kansas City Public Library’s “Women Who Made History: 19th Amendment Centennial” coloring book 🖍️ and learn more in Rebekah Aycock’s article “The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Kansas City” from The Pendergast Years project.
2. Performances and Events
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, there are many ways to share in the celebration and connect with fellow suffrage-enthusiasts.

◼️ Earlier this year, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City commissioned the suffrage-themed “And Still We Dream,” by composer Laura Karpman and librettist Kelley Rourke, based on the writings of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Watch the performance here.

◼️ Shawnee Town 1929 hosts “Movers and Shakers of the Women’s Suffrage Movement” Wednesday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. Arrive early and you'll receive a “Votes for Women” pin, sash or banner created by local Girl Scouts.

◼️ Shawnee Town also has “Jammin’ on the Green” with the Grand Marquis Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. to celebrate the centennial. Note: Masks are required and both events are free, but you must RSVP at (913) 248-2360 so the organization can ensure social distancing.

◼️ Kansas City Public Library hosts two events related to the history of women’s suffrage. “Qualified Rights: Women’s Suffrage, Citizenship, and the 19th Amendment Reconsidered” on Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. with historian Saje Mathieu, focuses on African-American activism and rights. Watch live on YouTube.

◼️ KC Public Library hosts
 “Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener” with Kimberley Hamlin on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. Watch live on YouTube.

◼️ You could also put on your own show using the script for “Failure is Impossible” by Rosemary K. Knower, from the National Archives. 🎭 Or, if you're more musically inclined, check out the Library of Congress’ “Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music” collection or “The Suffrage Song Book,” published in Topeka in 1909. 🎵
3. Learn More About the Movement
If you want to take a deep dive into the people, images and writings from the movement, here are some local and national exhibits you can check out online and in-person.

◼️ Explore online exhibits from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, National Archives and the National Park Service.

◼️ The WWI Museum and Memorial has an in-person exhibit “Votes and Voices” and a detailed article on Women’s Suffrage from their Women in WWI series.

◼️ Johnson County Museum made its exhibit “Women and The Vote” available online, highlighting “170 years of women’s history in Kansas.”

◼️ The Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum in Gladstone, Missouri, hosts the traveling exhibit “Demanding a Greater Future: A Centennial of Women’s Suffrage” through October 3.

Are you home-schooling/remote learning this semester? Check out some of these living history performances online.

◼️ Watch an online reenactment interview with suffragist Genevieve Howland Chalkley (portrayed by author Jeanne Klein) on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 10 a.m. You can register for this free webinar here.

◼️ From the National Archives, you can “Meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton” (portrayed by Mary Ann Jung) in a live, online performance on Thursday, Aug. 20 at 10 a.m. Register for the free webinar here.

◼️ Want to get a first-hand look at the history of suffrage? The Library of Congress: By The People project crowdsources transcriptions for some suffragists’ original documents in the collection. What gem of history will you find?

4. The Ongoing Fight
We know you’re not here for politics, but so much of what we share each week is connected to voting: Public arts funding, education funding and even public radio funding depend on how people vote. 🗳️

Plus, voting is a kind of adventure itself!

So, check your voter registration. Register to vote in Missouri or Kansas by Wednesday, Oct. 7. Request your absentee ballot in Missouri or Kansas before Wednesday, Oct. 21, though we recommend doing this sooner. Ballots must be received by Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Return your ballot well before the election to avoid delays.


If you're voting in-person in Kansas, consider your early voting options. Both states require proof of ID to vote in-person, so bring that along with you.

And make sure your friends and family are all registered and ready to vote in November. ✔️

In the meantime, you can trust KCUR’s news team to keep you up to date on the latest in state and local election news. Subscribing to our daily Early Bird email is a good way to stay informed, too.

 More Adventures in Kansas City

Virtual Ethnic Festival 2020

Kansas City's annual Ethnic Enrichment Festival is going virtual this year, so you can enjoy music, crafts and cooking from all around the globe while staying safe at home. Tune in to the live stream Friday through Sunday at 6 p.m.
Shakespeare at Home

Mid-Continent Public Library is bringing the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival to your living room with a virtual performance on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m. Sorry — kettle corn not included.

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Photo Credits:
1. Susan B. Anthony, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B2-2667-6
2. Rose Sanderson, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B2-2631-11

3. The Awakening, Cornell University - The PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography

4. Votes for Women - The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

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