Marylanders in multiple counties celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment affirming women’s right to vote as part of the Women’s Equality Day Celebration across Maryland (WEDC).
WEDC is a coalition of nonprofits coming together to shine a light on the many women of the Maryland suffrage movement and to bring a local Suffrage Centennial celebration to Marylanders.
The celebration was conceived to be simultaneous and state-wide with free, family friendly, nonpartisan events held in public spaces in multiple counties, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some events were held virtually and on different days. While no longer simultaneous, all events both honored the sacrifices and successes of the suffragists and linked their historic achievement to the ongoing fight for women’s rights in ways that reflected the local flavor.
The city of Baltimore and Garrett and Prince George’s counties held in-person celebrations Aug. 28 while Allegany and Montgomery counties celebrated online Aug. 29 and Aug. 26, respectively. All events were in adherence of all pandemic safety protocols.
The Baltimore event was held in Druid Hill Park with activities and educational experiences for all ages. Upon registration, participants were asked to vote in a special election on ballot initiatives that are current campaigns, like making Women’s Equality Day a federal holiday and passing the Equal Rights Amendment.
The exhibit hall featured displays from nine organizations, such as the very popular display on Maryland suffragists from the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center and the display about the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum.
At the Baltimore NOW booth, celebrants could select a suffrage-era hat and a “Votes for Women” sash or sign and pose as a suffragist in front of a life-size photo of Baltimore suffragists in 1912. Another seven organizations provided information for distribution as more than 53 people participated, despite the threat of rain and a last-minute location change by the park.
The Garrett County event was held in Sang Run State Park, home of a recently restored historical election house, which was rededicated as part of the day’s festivities.
The event drew 125 attendees and opened with a ceremonial suffrage march to the main area with food vendors, voter registration and activities for both kids and adults. A main feature of the day was the Women’s Monologues: Maryland Suffragists, organized by AAUW-Garrett Branch. The monologues were performed by local residents portraying prominent suffragists who were residents of (or had an impact on) Garrett County, including hike leader “General” Edna Story Latimer, anti-suffragist Mary Frick Garrett and her pro-suffragist sister-in-law, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, and “suffragent” Frederick Douglass.
In Prince George’s County, the event was held at the Laurel Historical Society, which created special displays on women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment, with a focus on suffrage history in Laurel. Twenty-five participants also had the opportunity to register to vote, sign the petition to make Women’s Equality Day a national holiday and celebrate their voice and their vote.
The Allegany County event was a film screening of “Iron Jawed Angels,” followed by a panel discussion about the movie, local suffrage history, the Equal Rights Amendment and women’s rights today. They celebrated virtually in Montgomery County, too, with “Ted-talk” style five-minute presentations by a diverse and energetic group of speakers, including Diane Fink: Getting More Women Elected; Hana O’Looney: Voting for the First Time; Nancy Navarro: The Balancing Act of Elected Women; Amena Johnson: The Importance of Women Voting; and Amanda Brown Lierman. The History and Significance of Women’s Equality Day. Both online events had between 30 and 35 participants.
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