Marking the Suffrage Centennial in Houses, Discourses, Bodies, and Projects

I’m being inaccurate in selecting today’s date to mark the Suffrage Centennial, when the event that we know as ratification occurred in several phases over a year’s time and, like many other aspects of global and U.S. suffrage, only after periods of regression, paradigmatic shifting, and strategic political repositioning. But today, one-hundred years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed what we know as Amendment XIX, signaling a first step in its political reception, and serving as a reminder of the historically significant role that localized (municipal and state) bodies would play either as conduits for vital policy discussions or as stalwarts for certain kinds of progress around amendments and bills whose reception was mixed.

Currently, I live and work in a state that was neither a conduit nor a stalwart for Amendment XIX, and whose House of Representatives didn’t formally consider it until a half century later. Other socially significant bills did move through Florida’s legislative sessions between 1919 and 1969, enabling agricultural reorganization, supporting the establishment of junior colleges, pushing for bus integration and school integration, calling for the installation of the Ringling Museum and the commissioning of its artwork as a public good, to name only a few. But on the “Woman Question,” Florida’s legislative body seems to have been inert until it reorganized in 1969, began meeting more regularly, and began systematically recording its statutes.

In the meantime, I imagine the implementation of women’s suffrage was carried out in Florida the way it had already been: incrementally through community bodies and projects, ranging from small to large, from informal to structured, and marking its progress organization by organization, block by block, school by school, church by church, and so on. I imagine it as a series of member-driven actions — not actions driven by law — alternately perceived as progressive or regressive, depending upon whose interests were being served.

Regardless of how I imagine it, there is a head-heart-hand connection implicit in the work that gets historicized as “Suffrage,” during the periods when it was both supported and not supported by law, and that same head-heart-hand connection is implicit in the work I see Coalition members take on every day. As we anticipate the Suffrage Centennial in the coming year, here are just a few of the ways that Coalition members are already involved:

No doubt there are more. Many more.

– Tarez Graban,
CFSHRC President