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Flint, MI— Wednesday marked the 100th year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, and the Flint League of Women Voters rang it in with a special Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration.
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The event kicked off with a motorcade to the University of Michigan-Flint followed by a performance by Jazz on Wheels. Attendees socially distanced in their cars while speakers took the stage to discuss intersectionality in voter access, the upcoming election and the history of women’s suffrage.
Pegge Adams, Centennial Committee chair for the Flint LMV, organized the ceremony. Speakers included Congressman Dan Kildee, State Representative Sheryl Kennedy and the first female Mayor of Flint Karen Weaver.
Women fought for nearly 100 years to win the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, three-quarters of the state legislatures ratified the Nineteenth Amendment and women gained full voting rights. However, black women and other minorities were disenfranchised by poll taxes, literacy tests and violent opposition from the Ku Klux Klan. It was not until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that state laws aimed to prevent the black vote were lifted.
Kennedy reminded the crowd that the fight for black women voters is not over. “Many still [face restrictions.] Let us remember all the black women who were instrumental in fighting for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment yet were unable to fully realize their right to vote until a half-century later,” she said.
Dr. Linda Logan, regional president of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church Women’s Missionary Society, also spoke at the event. Since the late 1800s, black women used their influence in churches, schools and newspapers to advocate for suffrage, she said.
“But in spite of their hard work, many people still didn’t listen to them. But that did not stop them. This is why I admire the work that’s happening here today. A collection of many people coming together to ensure our vote in November,” Logan said.
Voting is a way of honoring the women who paved the way, Kildee said. “There is a threat to what they fought, struggled for and won. There is a threat right now. And the threat is that there are those within our own government that are trying to use the tools of government to prevent that hard-fought victory from actually being realized. And there’s only one way we defeat that threat… to vote like we’ve never voted before.”
Many speakers paid tribute to Kathryn Blake, the former centennial committee chair of the Flint League of Women Voters, who passed away due to COVID-19 in April. “Kathryn was one of those women that never allowed herself to be destroyed but merely became stronger. And we miss her terribly,” said Bobbie Walton, a women’s rights advocate.
Walton performed a dramatization of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s remarks on voting. Black Trade Unionist Claudia Perkins-Milton followed with a dramatization of Congresswoman Maxine Waters.