The Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Women and Gender Office at East Carolina University held a virtual celebration for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment on Oct. 7.
The virtual celebration featured the League of Women Voters of Wake County President Dianna Wynn who shared her thoughts on the women’s suffrage movement as she analysed clips from the film “Iron Jawed Angels.” Multiple film clips were reviewed throughout the virtual celebration.
Aside from the general overview of the film and movement, Wynn addressed some major takeaways from each clip. She said an important aspect that one clip showed in particular was that there was racism within the women’s suffrage movement.
“A lot of people did not know until more recently as we’ve been talking more about the history of this movement that there was racism within the women’s suffrage movement at particularly in the later years,” Wynn said. “In the earlier years there was a pretty strong coalition between white women and men and women of color within the suffrage movement.”
People are used to learning the names of white women suffragettes, according to Wynn. She said many Black women suffragette names have been lost to history due to the history being largely written by white women and because many white women who were a part of the movement were single issue activists.
Wynn said many Black women suffragettes were multi-issue activists. She said they not only worked for the right to vote, but they also would work for racial equity and other fundamental issues.
“Their names don’t often pop out as women suffragettes because their suffrage work was mixed in with all of that activism,” Wynn said.
The National Women’s Party and the American Woman Suffrage Association are two major organizations founded by suffragettes that still exist today, according to Wynn. She said the National Women’s Party exists today as a non-profit organization but only to maintain its historical archives.
Wynn said both organizations were essential and instrumental to receive the ratification of the 19th Amendment. She said the tactics of both organizations were different, but needed.
By August of 1920, 35 states had ratified but 36 were needed in order for the 19th Amendment to become part of the Constitution, Wynn said. She said the decision came down to North Carolina and Tennessee.
“It did not go well here in North Carolina,” Wynn said. “Our North Carolina legislatures, they didn’t technically vote against it (the 19th Amendment), they voted against even considering it until the following year, they did not want to deal with it at all.”
Wynn said North Carolina did not officially ratify the 19th Amendment until 1971. She said Tennessee became the 36th and final state that was needed for ratification and it shows how important a single vote can be.