Celebration of suffrage

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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Rhode Island hosted a special program during its mid-winter meeting at Eleven Forty-Nine Restaurant in Warwick on Jan. 15.

“Women’s Suffrage: Women’s Right to Vote” brought together members of GFWC members from across the state. Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea provided the event’s keynote address.

“I think we can all be inspired by those trailblazing women and the decades of persistence it took to attain the fundamental American right to vote,” Gorbea said.

She added, however, that the ratification of the 19th Amendment did not immediately enfranchise all women. The work of women of color often went unrecognized, she said, and efforts to ensure voting rights remain ongoing.

“We’ve come a long way in the 100 years since, but there’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to access to the ballot box,” she said.

Gorbea said as part of the centennial, her department is working with the Rhode Island Council of the Humanities for a yearlong initiative dubbed “Shall Not Be Denied.” Its programs and events will celebrate women’s suffrage and promote civic engagement.

“I hope this centennial provides inspiration for each of you to affect change and start those kinds of conversations in your own communities,” she said.

Karen Leach, president of GFWC Rhode Island, spoke of the decades of advocacy that resulted in women’s suffrage and the involvement of GWFC, including during a March 1913 parade in the nation’s capital.

“Women won their right to vote. They were not given it or granted it…Participate in honoring these women,” she said.

To learn more about GFWC Rhode Island, visit gfwcri.org. For more information about the “Shall Not Be Denied” initiative, visit shallnotbedenied.org.

(Herald text and photos)

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