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Governor And First Lady Promote Women’s Suffrage Event At Capitol

Public Invited To Kickoff Event Monday Recognizing Wisconsin As The First State To Ratify The 19th Amendment

women rally for women's suffrage in New York in 1916
A line of women rally for women’s suffrage and advertise a free rally discussing women’s right to vote in New York, in Sept. 1916. AP Photo

First Lady Kathy Evers is spearheading a centennial celebration on Monday to document the anniversary of Wisconsin becoming the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration will take place at noon on June 10 in the Wisconsin State Capitol Rotunda. Visitors are encouraged to wear their “suffrage white” and hear from First Lady Evers, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who Kathy Evers said can help establish commentary about women in leadership roles.

At noon, the original 19th Amendment will be unveiled by Christian Øverland, the Ruth & Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

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“We’re hoping we get lots of people to come out and take part in the events that are going to happen that day,” Kathy Evers said in an interview with Rob Ferrett on “Central Time,” along with her husband, Gov. Tony Evers.

Monday’s celebration, which marks 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, is a kickoff event to others throughout the state. The Madison event will have women’s suffrage artifacts on display in the Rotunda until 10 p.m. From 1 to 3 p.m., members of the public can join women of the 104th Legislative Session during a public reception.

A celebration will be taking place in Milwaukee, too. The Milwaukee County Historical Society, together with the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, will host a celebration beginning at 5 p.m. with remarks by UW-Milwaukee history professor emerita Genevieve McBride given at 5:30 p.m. RSVPs are required.

Tony Evers, 19th amendment, women's right to vote
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is surrounded by some of the most powerful women in state government after he signs a proclamation recognizing the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin being the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Scott Bauer/AP Photo

Gov. Evers, who signed an executive order to create a committee that his wife chairs to celebrate the anniversary, noted that educational toolkits will be created for teachers and students across the state that will help them teach and learn about the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the movements that prompted it.

“I think it’s important that (young people) understand our place in history,” Gov. Evers said, adding that he hopes more knowledge of this ratification will hopefully help girls and young women understand the importance of public service and potentially consider getting involved in politics.

The governor pointed out that although the ratification gave women the right to vote, racism upheld legal barriers that hampered voting by black Americans. Full voting rights weren’t experienced by all Americans until 1965. He also noted that even 100 years after Wisconsin decided to support women’s suffrage, he’s still concerned about efforts that attempt to make voting more difficult.

“If we want a strong democracy … we also have to recognize that we have to continue to make voting as easy as possible for everyone in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

Congress voted in favor of the 19th Amendment in 1919, but law required that 36 states needed to vote in favor of it in order to change the Constitution — a process known as ratification.

Wisconsin was the first state to vote in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment, setting the stage for 36 states to commit to the amendment by August 1920.

“We’re just very excited and proud of our state and we want to continue to push for people’s voting rights,” Kathy Evers said.

Tune into WPR’s “Central Time” on Monday, June 10, to hear First Lady Kathy Evers and her husband Gov. Tony Evers talk about the importance of the 19th Amendment. The interview, hosted by Rob Ferrett, was produced by Rachael Vasquez.