Much like the current month, August 1920 was full of big news affecting the country’s elections. A hundred years ago the United States ratified and adopted the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads: “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.”
Votes for women! And yet the fight for the vote did not end in 1920: In practice, Black women, indigenous women, and women of color continued to be blocked from voting booths. This year marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and there are many different in-person and virtual events happening around town to commemorate the anniversary. Learn about suffragist icons, explore historic exhibits, tune into various live talks, and more.
Tuesday, August 18: The day the 19th Amendment was ratified
A night at the theater: Finish the Fight is a new virtual play that focuses on those who were excluded from voting long after 1920. Written by Ming Peiffer and directed by Whitney White, the piece highlights five leaders: Mary McLeod Bethune, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Zitkála-Šá, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, and Jovita Idár. The play is based on the new New York Times book Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Veronica Chambers and the newspaper’s staff. Tuesday 8/18 at 7 PM; free; RSVP here.
Wednesday, August 19
Listen to: Podcasters, there’s something for you too. Hear Rosario Dawson and Retta’s show And Nothing Less, which focuses on the suffrage stories that textbooks ignored. It’s a series produced by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, and they also have a suffrage-related podcast for kids: “The Magic Sash” with star gymnast Aly Raisman. Both shows will drop new episodes on Wednesday; listen to “And Nothing Less” here, “The Magic Sash” here.
For the kids: The DC Public Library is hosting a virtual storytime event commemorating the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Hear Mara Rockliff’s Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten and 10,000 Miles and see the illustrations by Hadley Hooper. Wednesday 8/19 at 3 PM; free; watch in on Facebook live here.
Thursday, August 20
Pass the Bechdel test: In honor of National Women’s Suffrage Month, the Workhouse Arts Center is teaming up with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission for drive-in movie nights each Thursday featuring films with strong female leads. Upcoming flicks include Suffragette (2017) and baseball classic A League of Their Own (1992). Entry is $30 per car, and moviegoers can bring their own food or order sweet kettle corn up to 24 hours in advance. Restrooms are available. Thursday, 8/20 and Thursday, 8/28 at 9 PM; $30 per car, buy tickets here.
Saturday, August 22
Honor imprisoned activists: The barracks at the Workhouse Arts Center’s campus once housed a prison where members of the National Women’s Party were held after picketing the White House. But recently, the building was renovated and dubbed the Lucy Burns Museum, a space that honors the legacy of the imprisoned suffragists. Only open on Saturdays, the exhibits tell the stories of activists held captive, with jail cell tours available for an additional cost. Open Saturdays from 12 PM to 5 PM; free.
Monday, August 24
Public art: See a 1,000-square-foot mosaic of civil rights leader, suffragist, and anti-lynching advocate Ida B. Wells at Union Station from August 24-28. Thousands of historic photographs illustrating portraits of suffragists comprise the art installation, “Our Story: Portraits of Change Mosaic of Ida B. Wells.” The individual marble tiles, when seen from a distance, depict a portrait of Wells that was created by British artist Helen Marshall. In addition to the tile mosaic at the station, which was where National Woman’s Party activists started their “Prison Special” train tour in February 1919, there is an interactive version of the work online where viewers can click on individual tiles and explore the many histories Wells’s portrait contains. The installation will be on display at Union Station from Monday 8/24 to Friday 8/28.
Tuesday, August 25
Learn suffragist 101: Long before the Women’s March, women took to the streets demanding to be heard. Authors Rebecca Roberts and Lucinda Robb highlight the suffragists as one of the many blueprints for today’s activism in the upcoming book, The Suffragist Playbook: Your Guide to Changing the World. Find inspiration in the past during a virtual book talk with the authors, hosted by the National Archives Foundation. Tuesday, 8/25 at 1 PM; free; reserve a spot here.
Wednesday, August 26: The day the 19th Amendment was formally adopted into the US Constitution, officially recognized as Women’s Equality Day
Lights up: Lights of purple and gold, the colors of the suffrage movement, will illuminate the National Archives and other DC institutions on August 26 in honor of the slogan, “Forward Through the Darkness, Into the Light.” Make it a nighttime tour downtown to see purple and gold on the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and the DAR National Headquarters.
Ask about women’s equality then and now: It’s been a hundred years since women won the right to vote, but the fight for equality remains alive and well. The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association is bringing together a panel of women for a webinar on the journey towards equality, featuring former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, historian Elisabeth Griffith, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission head Victoria A. Lipnic, and Virginia House of Delegates majority leader Charniele Herring. The interactive event will give viewers an opportunity to ask the panel questions during the program. Wednesday, 8/26 from 8 PM to 10 PM; free; register here.
Be in the room where it happens: If you’ve ever wanted to eavesdrop on a conversation between Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony, now is your chance—well, kind of. American Historical Theatre interpreters are play-acting as key figures in the suffragist movement National Archives show streamed online. The family-friendly theatrics are an opportunity to introduce kids to the history of the 19th Amendment. For a specific look at the impact of African American women on the women’s rights movement, the National Archives is also organizing an Ida B. Wells program featuring the activist’s great-granddaughter. For Paul, Truth, and Anthony: Wednesday, 8/26 at 1 PM; free; reserve a spot here. For Wells: Thursday, 8/27 at 1 PM; free; reserve a spot here.
Attend a (virtual) lecture: Black women’s fight for suffrage continued long after 1920. In her new book Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, Dr. Martha S. Jones details this under-examined history. The Johns Hopkins history professor will speak about her research with journalist A’Lelia Bundles in a virtual event hosted by the National Archives Foundation. Wednesday 8/26 at 6 PM; free; register here.
Watch a short: Catch a screening of Finding Justice: The Untold Story of Women’s Fight for the Vote, a short documentary about the importance of the Justice Bell in the suffrage movement. Following the screening, hear from filmmaker Amanda Owen in a live chat organized by the National Women’s History Museum. Wednesday 8/26 at 2 PM; free; register here.
Tune into a live show: The Women Take the Stage will be a massive live-streamed concert and rally featuring big names including activists Dolores Huerta, Alicia Garza, and Gloria Steinem, singers Vanessa Williams and Idina Menzel, Lily Tomlin, and more. Hear from leading the heads of women’s rights organizations like Time’s Up and ERA Coalition as well. Wednesday 8/26 at 9 PM; free; watch it here.
Thursday, August 27
Continue the conversation: The US Capitol Historical Society is kicking off the virtual discussion series “100 Years of Women Voting” with a keynote from Christina Wolbrecht, political-science professor at Notre Dame and director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the university. The events that follow include topics of race and gender in politics, diverse voices in the suffrage movement, and women in leadership. Learn more here.