Following Ohio Women Vote: Stopping at Ohio University


Following Ohio Women Vote: Stopping at Ohio University

In 1920, the United States passed the 19th Amendment, granting many women the right to vote for the first time. As part of our commemoration of this Suffrage Centennial, the Ohio History Connection has created an exhibit that will travel the state in 2020 to tell the story of Ohio women’s activism. We will be using our blog to follow the exhibit as it travels, and to share what other organizations are doing to mark this important anniversary. In the post below, hear from Miriam Intrator, Special Collections Librarian responsible for Rare Books at Ohio University, where the exhibit will travel in April. 

We at Ohio University began planning ways to commemorate 100 years of the passage of the 19th amendment in 2018. Our focus was on curating an exhibit featuring materials from the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections. During 2019 I was fortunate to work with two outstanding undergraduate students in this endeavor: Harmony Renn during spring and summer and Saraya Abner during the fall. Enrolled in a 3-credit Research Apprenticeship supervised by myself and Carey Snyder, faculty member in English, these students delved deeply into the Mahn Center’s collections in order to identify, locate, evaluate, select, and finally describe the materials they found that were relevant to suffrage and to the history and impact of the movement more broadly. They explored Rare Books, Manuscripts, and University Archives, as well as sheet music from the Music and Dance Library and “medium rare” materials still in the general circulating collection. They researched individuals and events, asked and answered difficult questions, suggested possible ways to organize the exhibit and present the materials, and drafted content for labels.

The final product, “Women Pioneers: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage,” is on display for all of spring semester in the busy 4th floor lobby area of Alden Library. The cases display a wide variety of items in terms of format: books, periodicals, artists’ books, postcards, manuscript materials, and ephemera, and in terms of content: autobiographies, biographies, theses, yearbooks, scrapbooks, studies, fiction, plays, and so on. One case focuses entirely on the suffrage movement in Ohio, including at Ohio University, and contains two of our most exciting items. One is the Hazel Ethelinda Cline-Moore Scrapbook, into which is pasted a suffrage sash from some point of her 1912 to 1916 tenure at the University. Another is a silk promotional bookmark used during Victoria Woodhull’s 1872 presidential campaign. We also feature Irma Voigt, first and longtime Dean of Women at Ohio University, including writings that illustrate her evolving position on women’s suffrage.

Hazel Ethelinda Cline-Moore’s suffrage sash

Other cases highlight key figures in the movement and to its history, both in the United States and abroad. Just a few examples are a signed copy of Helen Keller’s 1929 autobiography, Midstream: My Later Life, a first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects published in London in 1792, and a first edition of the play Rachel: A Play in Three Acts, considered the first play published and produced by an African American woman. The author, Angelina W. Grimke, was named after her activist and suffragist great-aunt. Additional themes covered are women in the workforce, dress reform, and voting rights more broadly. Two contemporary artists’ books by Bonnie Thompson Norman, Ballot Box and A Primer for Democracy, emphasize that voting is not only a precious right that was hard fought for by many, but also a responsibility, a reality that resonates powerfully in this divisive presidential election year.

In addition to the exhibit, a variety of other events are taking place in Alden Library, at Ohio University, and in the Athens community. These range from hands-on “Modernize Your Suffrage Sash” creative making sessions to a conversation between Dr. Sara Egge, author of Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest and Ohio University Professor of History Dr. Katherine Jellison, to a series of films and conversations at the Athena Cinema, and more. On Monday, February 3rd, students Harmony Renn and Saraya Abner will be leading their own Talk-and-Tour of the exhibit to which they contributed so much.

We are also honored and excited to be hosting, from April 6 to 26, the Ohio History Connection traveling exhibit, Ohio Women Vote: 100 Years of Change. This will also be available on the 4th floor of Alden Library.

All events are free and open to the public. All are welcome and encouraged to visit.

Miriam Intrator, MSLS, PhD, is Special Collections Librarian responsible for Rare Books at Ohio University, a member of the Margaret Boyd Scholars Program Advisory Board, and liaison librarian to Ohio University’s honors programs.

Not near Ohio University? Check out the traveling exhibit schedule here, to see if it will appear closer to you! 

Posted February 27, 2020

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