The Sewall-Belmont House and the National Archives in Washington, DC collaborated to set aside August 26th, Women’s Equality Day, for a panel discussion of the upcoming 2020 suffrage centennial that was streamed online. It’s still possible to review the highlights of the hour-long conversation. It may seem like a discussion scheduled well in advance of the centennial, although moderator Page Harrington of the Sewall-Belmont House emphasized that the purpose of the discussion was to “expand the dialogue and get it out into the mainstream.”
The panelists included Bridget Howe for the Girl Scouts; Dr. Ida E. Jones of the Moorland-Springarn Research Center at Howard University; Cindi Malinick of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Dr. Libby O’Connell, chief historian for the History Channel; Nancy E. Tate for the League of Women Voters; and Page Harrington of the Sewall-Belmont House.
No matter where you are in the 2020 suffrage centennial food chain, it’s important to get out the word to all interested organizations to begin planning for 2020. It may seem early; however, this is a national celebration even if the effort at the present time doesn’t have a national commission already at work like the one underway for World War I. There’s a great deal of dreaming and conversation about the national suffrage centennial. People are determined to do something. That’s why the August 26th streaming panel discussion seems like an important step in the right direction.
The rich tapestry of suffrage stories was mentioned enough times by the panelists to be of note. How the suffrage movement centennial will fit into the programs of the Girl Scouts is something to watch in the future. Educating about the issues of race and the release of a new database of African-American suffragists is in the works. Bringing women’s stories out of the back rooms of historic sites is likely to be a significant direction, as well as major media channels such as A&E looking for suffrage movement content. The descendants of suffrage activists involved in the League of Women Voters, for example, are likely to strengthen the theme of storytelling and the many ways in which the past is linked to the present day. Specific suffrage programs linked to 2020 are still in the planning stages, so we look forward to how a unified theme will develop. It would be productive to sponsor a panel discussion with the same panelists in the future and find out about their specific plans as a way to inspire others.
Will there be funding and a well-defined and funded national momentum that will make the most of the opportunity? Let’s keep this conversation ongoing!
Photo: Courtesy Sewall-Belmont House.