One hundred years ago, on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment became law as Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Today, a new mini-exhibit at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium highlights those locally who fought to pass the 19th Amendment, which reads “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
“From Anna Bell Lawther and Mary Newbury Adams to May Rogers, Clara Aldrich Cooley, and many others, Dubuque women were vocal in the fight for equal suffrage rights,” says Cristin Waterbury, Director of Curatorial Services for the Dubuque County Historical Society, which operates the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
The mini-exhibit features artifacts associated with the suffrage movement and key historical figures who fought for the 19th Amendment as well as an abundance of stories and commentary providing context to the issues surrounding the movement that spanned nearly a century.
A highly controversial issue, many groups organized both in favor of and in opposition to equal suffrage. Iowa, which was one of the first states outside of New England to grant Black men the right to vote, had several Black women helping lead the cause, including Sue Wilson Brown and Gertrude Rush. And threatening the movement’s final years was the influenza pandemic of 1918.
“Hard Won, Not Done™ is a timely look at the events leading up to the ratification of the 19th amendment,” Waterbury goes on to say. “It’s a chance to look back at how far we’ve come, draw parallels to our own experiences 100 years later, and consider how far we have yet to go toward the goal of equity for all.”
Hard Won, Not Done™ is located in the main concourse of the River Museum’s Mississippi River Discovery Center, alongside the Dubuque County Historical Society’s 70th Anniversary mini-exhibit and its Hometown Home Runs baseball mini-exhibit. All three mini-exhibits are included with general admission to the River Museum, which is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Hard Won, Not Done™ was made possible with support from Annual Dipsea Race; Drake University Law Library; Dubuque Telegraph Herald; Hard Won, Not Done™ 19th Amendment Centennial Commemoration Project; Hillcrest Family Services; Iowa Department of Human Rights; Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Law Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa; Abby Lawrence; League of Women Voters of Dubuque; League of Women Voters of Iowa; Library of Congress; Michelle London; New York Public Library; State Historical Museum of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa; and the University Archives, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa.