Women’s suffrage did not begin or end with the 19th Amendment in 1920. The history of women’s right to vote in Nebraska and the rest of the United States is rooted in the history of abolitionism and states’ right, continued with the League of Women Voters and the Equal Rights Amendment, up to the present moment in the 21st century with the #MeToo Movement and debates about abortion rights.
“Votes for Women: More than Just the 19th Amendment” tells a small piece of the complex history of this political, cultural, and racial struggle for equality and equity before the law.
Nebraska was an early battleground for women’s suffrage. Amelia Bloomer was an initial advocate for women’s right to vote, starting in the 1850s before the territory of Nebraska became a state. Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke at voter events in Omaha, and Mary Baird Bryan, the wife of William Jennings Bryan, donated 3 pigs for rural voting fundraisers. Nebraska would see two suffrage amendments fail state votes before the federal 19th Amendment was passed.
Women of color and white women were active in promoting suffrage and other political campaigns through the use of newspapers, fliers, and pamphlets. This history of political publications and social literature is evident in suffrage, ERA, labor rights, and #MeToo materials.
The history of women’s suffrage, in both Nebraska and nationally, is complicated by racism and whitewashing of history. Many women of color, indigenous women, immigrants, and other minority groups played instrumental roles for the right to vote and other political activities, though their stories are frequently ignored and overlooked in the historical records. UNO Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections acknowledges that there are gaps in our collections, which do not fully reflect the diverse history of women’s suffrage in Nebraska and the United States. The department is interested in adding additional memorabilia, photographs, and other material to the archives that document suffrage, voting rights, or political activities in Omaha and Nebraska, with particular emphasis on materials that document the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and women of color, individuals with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQIA2S+ communities. Contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.554.2362 to discuss the collection further.
The exhibit displays items from Archives and Special Collections including the University Archives, UNO Teaching Ephemera Collection, The Nebraska League of Women Voters Collection, the Jacqueline St. John Papers, and the Jo Ann (Jody) Carrigan Papers. Some additional items are on loan from UNO librarian Dr. Heidi Blackburn. The exhibit was curated by Outreach Archivist Claire Du Laney. The exhibit is available to view November 1, 2020 – January 15, 2021 during Criss Library hours, and is located on the First Floor of Criss Library in Archives and Special Collections.
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Unless otherwise clearly stated, any views or opinions expressed as part of events, exhibitors, or presenters in the UNO Libraries (Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library and the KANEKO-UNO Library) should not be viewed as endorsements by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and do not reflect the official position of UNO or the University of Nebraska system.