Harrisburg, PA — Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar joined officials and members of the public in the Capitol Rotunda to commemorate today's 100th anniversary of the Pennsylvania General Assembly's vote to ratify the 19th Amendment that would eventually give women the right to vote.
"A century ago today, in this building, the commonwealth became the seventh state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Secretary Boockvar said. "I am proud of Pennsylvania's early embrace of women's suffrage. We helped lead the way for the rest of the nation."
Attendees shared in the celebration by "ratifying" copies of the amendment with their signatures. The General Assembly approved the amendment 20 days after it had cleared Congress on June 4, 1919, and was sent to the states for ratification.
On loan from the Pennsylvania State Archives, Pennsylvania's original ratification document and other historical records from the suffrage movement were on display.
Secretary Boockvar was joined at the podium by guest speakers state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46th), state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191st) and Lynn Yeakel, founder and president of the Vision 2020 coalition.
"One hundred years ago, women in the United States – half the population – could not participate in our democracy as voting citizens. Next year, Vision 2020's national Women 100 celebration will mark the historic milestone of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote," Yeakel said. "We will lead the nation with a year-long series of programs and events that honor the past, enrich the present, and shape the future to complete the unfinished business of women's equality."
Today's anniversary event also served as a reminder of how women's representation in government and leadership has evolved over the last century thanks to the 19th Amendment.
Currently, 65 women serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, 52 in the House and 13 in the Senate. Gov. Tom Wolf's cabinet includes eight women. Last year, Pennsylvania made state history by sending four women to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The state recently launched a new website, pa.gov/women-vote, which offers a comprehensive guide to the Pennsylvania women and events that played an integral part in the state and national suffrage movement.
Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphian, was a nationally known abolitionist and suffragist whose views were shaped by her Quaker faith. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mott helped organize the first women's rights convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848.
In the early 20th century, suffragists Caroline Katzenstein and Dora Kelly Lewis were leaders in the Pennsylvania suffrage movement and influential members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman's Party.
Katzenstein served as secretary and publicist for several suffrage associations at the state and national level. Once women gained the right to vote in 1920, she dedicated the rest of her life to women's labor rights.
Lewis often sacrificed her health and freedom for the cause. Between 1917 and 1919, she was arrested multiple times for involvement in pro-suffrage demonstrations. While imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia, she was force-fed during a hunger strike she helped organize to protest the harsh treatment of the suffragists and was knocked unconscious by guards.
The 19th Amendment became law across the United States more than a year after Pennsylvania's vote. In August 1920, the requirement that three-fourths of states ratify the amendment was finally attained with Tennessee's vote. Eight days later – on August 26,1920 – U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
NOTE: Video, audio and photos from this event will be available for download later in an email from the Pennsylvania Internet News Service (PINS). To register for PINS emails, email@example.com.
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