WOMEN CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF VOTING
I walked to the 400 Block of downtown Wausau for the Celebration of White Women Voting for the past 100 years. People came in costumes from 100 years ago. People wore masks to deal with the current virus. Red, white and blue sashes added color to the white gowns worn by the “suffragists.”
Katie Rosenberg, mayor of Wausau, talked about her great-grandmother writing letters to help women achieve the right to vote. Katie stands on the shoulders of the women before her, who paved the way for women’s right to participate in government.
Barb Munson of Mosinee is a long-time activist. For years she has worked for removal of Native American titles used as mascots by high school teams. She reminded us how significantly the first suffragists drew from the Iroquois Confederacy as a form for governance.
In the Iroquois model, clan mothers chose the representing chiefs on the Grand Council. Clan mothers could also remove them from the council. This provided a gender balance.
Native American women received the right to vote in 1971.
Kayley McColley represented Black Lives Matter. She is twenty years old and a student in nursing at Northcentral Technical College. She reminded us that black women were excluded from the suffrage movement 100 years ago. Black women waited until 1965 to vote.
Black women are still being excluded from equal pay and other necessities. We all can do our part by recognizing, encouraging and supporting black women in voting, in their professions and in education.
Ka Lo represented the Marathon County Board. She told how Asian-American women did not have the right to vote until 1971. That is not very long ago.
Organizers of the event had made beautiful posters for us to use on the march. The wind blew some of the posters off the stage, but they were recovered. It reminded me of the winds of change blowing right now in our time. I was not aware of all the work these women had done and continue to do in our community. This event made it possible for us to recognize each other’s work and to be encouraged by it.
We marched from the 400 Block to the Yawkey Park of Wausau. There we heard Vickie Richmond Hawkins, representing a suffragist. She explained the difference between suffragette and suffragist. A “suffragist” worked in peaceful constitutional campaigns. Later, women who used more direct action beyond the campaign were called “suffragettes.” She told of the jailings, hunger strikes and forced feeding that suffragettes endured.
Ashley Buchacek of the YWCA told about the work of the YWCA in empowering women. Much has been achieved, but more needs to be done. We build on the work of each other.
Nancy Schulz represented the AAUW (American Association of University Women), the group that organized this event. Other groups that supported this event are: Marathon County Historical Society, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, YWCA of Wausau, Women For Women, Black Lives Matter, Our Wisconsin Revolution, One Wausau, Citizen Action Northcentral Co-op, NAOMI, Wausau United to Amend and Building Unity Project.
Several speakers reminded us of how we stand on the shoulders of the people before us, who paved the way for advancement of women’s rights. Now it is our turn to give our shoulders for the next generation.