KINGSTON—The University of Rhode Island (URI) commenced with a year-long series of virtual lectures, panels and discussions beginning on Wednesday to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment. In addition to honoring these milestones of enfranchisement, the university will use the opportunity to explore the history of suffrage as well as modern-day voting issues.
“In 2020 we celebrate two monumental events in American history: the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting American women the right to vote, and the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment that at least nominally enfranchised African American men,” said a URI press release of the event. “Join us as we explore suffrage history and modern-day voting issues.”
Entitled “Long Rhode to the Vote: Suffrage Centennial Lecture Series,” the effort is sponsored by the URI Center for the Humanities, the program in Gender and Women’s Studies, URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors Program, the Women’s Leadership Council and the Suffrage Centennial Committee.
All events are free and open to the public, though registration is required.
The series kicked off Wednesday with a virtual presentation and lecture by Kenneth Florey, professor emeritus at Southern Connecticut State University, entitled “Suffrage Memorabilia and the Merchandising of the Movement,” which examined how memorabilia such as buttons, ribbons and pennants were used by those in the suffrage movement as “visual rhetoric” that helped to start conversations and also convey that the movement was vast and growing.
“In the early period of the movement, even those women who believed in various aspects of women’s rights were sometimes reluctant to assert those ideas outside of the home,” Florey said. “Memorabilia, in part, helps to illustrate the progress and movement of women from private to public discourse.”
According to Florey, the golden age of suffrage memorabilia was short and lasted only from 1907 to 1916, he noted that its impact is still felt and used in much the same way today.
“Today political campaigns and cause-movements still rely on memorabilia,” Florey said. “While things may change eventually as a result of the digital age, for now the use of memorabilia is still going strong.”
Other presentations in the series will include a talk on the role of black women in the suffrage movement by Professor Martha Jones of Johns Hopkins University, an analysis of the relationship between the suffrage sash and the Miss America Pageant by Hilary Levey Friedman of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Women, a lecture on the history of the suffrage movement in post-revolutionary Mexico by Assistant Professor Kathleen McIntyre of URI, and a discussion of the 2020 election with regard to recent issues in voting rights by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
Additionally, “Rightfully Hers,” a pop-up display created by The National Archives in partnership with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) will be on display on the first floor of Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons at URI through October.
Those interested in registering or learning more about any of the events can do so at URI’s website.