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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

June 5, 2019

Yesterday, around 80 organizations across the United States are sharing stories about the passage of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. I polled some of our Collections staff members about interesting items that talk about women’s right to vote. We have what you might expect – great images of like the one from Brookville you see at the top of this post, and papers from the Indiana Woman Suffrage Association, League of Women Voters and the Woman’s Franchise League of Indiana. Amy Vedra, director of reference, pointed me toward minutes from a meeting of the Student Senate at Shortridge High School that told an interesting story in a source you might not expect – minutes from a couple of meetings of the Shortridge High School Student Senate in the Shortridge High School Collection, 1870–1981, 1995.

I was particularly interested in the minutes from Jan. 12 and 19, 1917. During these meetings, students were discussing Bill 11 – not located in the bound volume but in essence, asks the question of whether or not women should be able to vote. Each student is acting as a senator from a specific state and explaining their position on women suffrage. I decided to “live tweet” the two meetings and had a lot of fun.

As you might expect, a lot of the student senators who were against suffrage use the age-old “a woman’s place is in the home” argument. However, I was pleased to see a few wonderful ones like Sen. Overman saying, “Why should a woman give up her education to care for a home just because she is a woman. Force of circumstance has made woman weaker than man. It is a provincial idea however that she belongs in the home,” and Sen. Johnson saying, “The idea of stratification because of sex should not exist. Grades in college are higher among girls than among boys. Women are more educated than men. They should be allowed to enter the political field.”

I’m glad this piece came to my attention. The minutes made me feel as if I were sitting and listening to this debate in a high school classroom with a haze of chalk dust in the air. I could almost hear the pen scratching on the paper as the secretary took down the minutes and the quiver in the voices of the student senators who spoke.

Scroll down to see the whole thread, and if you’re on Twitter, give us a follow. We share our images and events there almost every day and sometimes we live tweet talks and programs.

As a side note, I have to hope that the minutes were taken on scratch paper and then copied into the book because the handwriting was impeccable.

Chelsea Sutton Blogger Headshot

Chelsea Sutton is communications coordinator at the Indiana Historical Society. She started drinking coffee at age 3 with her dad and always stays up too late reading.

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