“In humanity, to believe in a thing means to get up and to do something.” - Jessie Phelps, co-founder of the Michigan state Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) Equal Suffrage League. 

In 1920, women across Washtenaw County and the entire United States celebrated the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited the government from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. Right here in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, people of all genders organized and gathered to support women’s suffrage. Their efforts made an impact on the movement’s success.  

One hundred years later, we’re honoring and celebrating this important American milestone alongside the League of Women Voters – a nonpartisan group dedicated to empowering voters and encouraging participation in government. The LWV is heading up “Votes for Women 100: Washtenaw Celebrates,” a county-wide initiative aimed at educating the public about our community’s role in women’s suffrage and commemorating this meaningful moment in history.  

Interested in the decades-long women’s suffrage effort and its roots in the Ann Arbor area? Check out these events and exhibits taking place throughout 2020 in various Washtenaw County locations. Most events are free and open to the public, and new events are added frequently. Visit https://votesforwomen100.org/ for more information! 

Votes for Women buttons

Ongoing Exhibit: Liberty Awakens in Washtenaw County: When Women Won the Vote 

A multifaceted look at the local suffrage movement, with contributions from the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area.  

Jan 6 – Feb 2, 2020 | Chelsea District Library 

Feb 5 – March 8, 2020 | Dexter District Library 

April 17 – May 2, 2020 | Salem Area Historical Society 

June 17 – 30, 2020 | Dexter Area Historical Society, Gordon Hall 

July 15 – Aug 30, 2020 | Ypsilanti District Library (Whittaker Road Branch) 

Sept 15 – Oct 30, 2020 | Ann Arbor District Library (Downtown Branch) 


February 18, 7 – 8 p.m.  

Dexter District Library 

The Sociology of Clothing: Suffragettes 

Join the Dexter District Library in welcoming professional costume designer, costume history scholar, and Professor of Costume Design at Eastern Michigan University, Melanie Schuessler Bond. She will  discuss the role that fashion, beauty and modesty has historically played in society, with a special focus on the suffragette movement. 


Lucy Stone Votes for Women

February 19, 12:30 – 2 p.m.  

Ann Arbor City Club 

Elizabeth Homer on Women’s Suffrage 

Elizabeth Homer, former curator of the Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, will speak on the women’s suffrage movement in celebration of the 100the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendement’s ratification.  


February 24, 4 – 5:30 p.m. 

Eldersveld Room, 5670 Haven Hall, University of Michigan 

Rubin Speaker Series: U-M Suffrage 2020, Corinne McConnaughy 

Professor McConnaughy’s research interests are in identity politics, focusing primarily on the roles race and gender play in American politics, and in the development of political institutions. She is the author of a book on the partisan and coalitional politics of women’s voting rights, entitled ‘The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment (Cambridge 2013). 


March 16, 4 – 5 p.m. 

Ford School Auditorium, University of Michigan 

Continuing Challenges to Suffrage in Michigan in 2020: Who Still Can’t Vote? 

A panel discussion with:  

  • Danielle Atkinson, founding director of Mothering Justice 
  • Stephanie Chang, member of the State House of Representatives and co=founder and past president of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan 
  • Dessa Cosma, Executive Director of Detroit Disability Power 
  • Sharon Dolente, voting rights strategist at Michigan’s ACLU 


March 17, 8 – 10 p.m. 

Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan 

"Let Woman Choose Her Sphere” - U-M Concert Band Celebrates the Centenary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment 

A concert by the University of Michigan Concert Band featuring compositions by women composers, speeches by prominent women’s rights advocates of the last 150 years, and the premiere performances of two pieces – one that creates a women’s march through the house of Hill Auditorium, and the second by composer Valerie Coleman, commissioned for this event to celebrate the centenary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. A pre-concert lecture will be held with Valerie Coleman in the lower lobby at 7:15 p.m. The Liberty Awakes Exhibit will be open in the mezzanine lobby at 6 p.m. 


April 22, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. 

South Salem Stone School 

"Dangerous Experiment” - Presented by Susan Nenadic 

Presenter Susan Nenadic will speak about women breaking barriers in education in the 19th century. “Dangerous Experiment” covers the changes in education for 19th century women including Emma Willard’s schoolin Troy, New York, which influenced many women to begin similar schools. In 1837 in Ann Arbor, the Clark Sisters established such a school that operate for over forty years.  


June 21, 1 – 2 p.m.  

Ann Arbor District Library, Traverwood Branch 

Make Your Own Suffragette Sash! 

2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage! Celebrate by making your own sash about voting and voting rights, and then wear it in the League of Women Voters’ 4th of July parade, if you’d like! 


June 25, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.  

Gordon Hall 

Petticoats and Votes – Katharine Dexter McCormick Suffragette 

Gordon Hall Days 2020 (an annual event) will feature the “Liberty Awakes” exhibit, along with a suffrage-era tea, Saturday evening dinner dance, and more.  


The University of Michigan is also celebrating the fight for the Nineteenth Amendment this year – visit https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/umsuffrage2020/ for more information.  


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