By Katherine Field, great-great-granddaughter of Evanston Suffragist Catharine Waugh McCulloch
How exciting it was to be marching on January 1, 2020 with such an important and enthusiastic group, and for me it was a special honor. I am the great-great-grandmother of Catharine Waugh McCulloch. Catharine was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1886 and served as the Legislative Director of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association from 1890 to 1911 to promote passage of women’s rights legislation and suffrage. Illinois was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment, and in the photo below I am standing with women representing Wisconsin and Michigan, the second and third states to ratify the Amendment. I have also included a photo of me and Michelle Duster, who lives in Chicago and is representing her great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells. Catherine McCulloch and Ida B. Wells were colleagues and friends, both working for women’s suffrage in Illinois.
When I arrived in Pasadena, I had no idea what to expect. We gathered in costume on December 31st for the float judging. I was so impressed by size and diversity of the group, men and women dressed and excited to participate. With the Statue of Liberty in the center, the float was majestic. The banners and messaging were such an appropriate way to commemorate the importance of both the suffrage movement and years of effort for civil rights reform. Although that day was very exhausting as we waited for the judges, “Years of Hope. Years of Courage” was designated the “Best Theme” – and the news of the award added even more momentum to our crowd and wiped away the group’s earlier exhaustion.
The most exciting part of the whole event was the reaction from the parade crowd. Even as we walked to the staging area in the early morning, our group was swarmed with passer-byers. They wanted to take pictures with us, and repeatedly stated how we were representing such an important issue! While I knew people would be drawn to us, I wasn’t expecting such positivity from the crowd. The 5-mile march was long, especially since we had gathered at 3:00 am to get ready, but it didn’t stop the group (including women older than me) from proudly marching down Colorado Blvd. It was incredibly inspiring to see men and women of all ages and races get activated around such an important commemoration.
For more about Catharine Waugh McCulloch and her work for suffrage in Evanston, in Illinois, and beyond – be sure to visit EHC for the upcoming exhibit – Evanston Women and the Fight for the Vote – opening March 8, 2020. Stay tuned for a new documentary coming out later this year that will tell her story. And – for more on Evanston and Suffrage – and McCulloch’s work – visit the Evanston Suffrage History page on this website.