Submitted by Washington State Historical Society

In 1920 after a decades-long battle, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote. On November 2 of that year, more than eight million women voted in national elections for the very first time. This August marks the National Suffrage Centennial and to celebrate, the Washington State Historical Society (WSHS) invites you to the digitally delivered Suffrage Special Whistle Stop Tour.

Women in Washington won the right to vote in 1910, ten years before national women’s suffrage was enacted. “This eight-episode video series explores our state’s connections to the larger national history of women’s suffrage and honors Washington’s women changemakers who led the way then as well as those who continue to do so today. It is thematically based on the real-life 1909 Suffrage Special train which carried local and national suffragists across our state from Spokane to Seattle in support of Washington women and their fight for the vote,” said Mary Mikel Stump, WSHS’s director of audience engagement.

The video series will make eight virtual “whistle stops” from August 19 through 26, 2020. August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the date that the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Each segment will be hosted by a local historical organization, exploring women’s suffrage history in their geographic region, its legacy, and ties to national women’s suffrage efforts.

The Suffrage Special Whistle Stop Tour schedule includes:

August 19 – Spokane
August 20 – Tri-Cities/Walla Walla
August 21 – Yakima/Ellensburg
August 22 – Vancouver
August 23 – Bellingham
August 24 – Seattle
August 25 – Tacoma
August 26 – Olympia

The Suffrage Special Whistle Stop Tour video series will be released on the @washingtonhistory and @suffrage100wa Facebook pages and uploaded to WashingtonHistory.org.

While the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, women of color still faced discrimination and barriers at the ballot box, and women who were not considered citizens or allowed to gain citizenship were also disenfranchised. When the Washington State History Museum reopens, visitors can see the exhibition Votes for Women: 100 Years and Counting, focused on the women’s suffrage movement and including the history of how voting rights in the United States impacted different communities across time.

If you had marked your calendar for the Suffrage Celebration event planned on the capitol grounds in Olympia this August, please note that it has been canceled due to concerns for public health, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to prohibit large gatherings.

“In reconsidering how best to recognize the centennial festivities, we reached out to partners across the state and developed the Suffrage Special Whistle Stop Tour based on an action that women in 1909 took to promote voting rights,” said Elisa Law, the WSHS women’s suffrage centennial coordinator. “Suffragists from across the country rode a train dubbed the Suffrage Special. It terminated in Seattle where the National Suffrage Convention was held at the same time as the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition. It was an important time in the fight for women’s suffrage. Our Whistle Stop Tour will be an interesting way for people to commemorate women’s fight for the right to vote and that legacy today, 100 years later. The virtual delivery allows access for many people who might not have been able to make it to an on-ground event in Olympia.” 

The Suffrage Special Whistle Stop Tour is presented in conjunction with Washington State Suffrage Centennial programming (details at www.suffrage100wa.com) through generous legislative support. Washington State Historical Society thanks our partners, the Washington State Women’s Commission, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Pasco’s Franklin County Historical Society, Kittitas County Historical Society, Clark County Historical Society, Whatcom Museum, Tacoma Historical Society, and Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum for collaborating on this series.

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