Year in Review – 2020

The 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 2020 was a main focus of the Evanston Women’s History Project (EWHP) for the past few years. Evanston women were integral to the local, state and national women’s suffrage movements and it was our goal to make that story known more broadly. In addition, we recognized that voting restrictions existed long after the 19th Amendment was passed – and still exist today. So, we commemorated the anniversary by remembering that the long struggle for women’s right to vote was really about the importance of citizenship and the struggle that women endured, and many citizens still endure, to secure it.

At the end of this busy and challenging year, the EWHP took stock of its work for the suffrage anniversary. We hope that you were able to participate in some way and that you continue to connect to the anniversary through the online exhibit and research database.

Please consider making a donation to support the work of the EWHP into the future – click here for more information.

Here are some of the many areas of work we engaged in for the 2020 anniversary.

Research – The primary work of the EWHP is research and building our research files and online database has been a focus of the project since its founding. The focus in the years leading up to 2020 was on Evanston women and their work for suffrage. This research work was assisted by many volunteers and interns.

Internships – In 2016, the Vickie Burke Internship for Women’s History was created to honor Vickie’s work establishing the EWHP and supporting women’s issues in the community. Since it began, interns have focused on suffrage research and in telling the Evanston suffrage story in our online exhibit – Evanston Women and the Fight for the Vote. Each year, interns would be assigned a new part of the story and would add to the exhibit as their research developed. We had two interns in 2020 who assisted with suffrage research. Their stories can be found here.

Exhibits online and onsite – The exhibit Evanston Women and the Fight for the Vote was initially only online. In 2019, we began making plans to create an onsite version of the exhibit for the temporary exhibit rooms at the history center. We completed additional research, explored the EHC collection for materials to include, designed the exhibit panels and room layout, and developed public programs to go with the exhibit. 

The onsite exhibit opened on March 8, 2020 for International Women’s Day. It was open for that week and then closed as EHC closed due to the pandemic. It reopened August 26, 2020 to celebrate the suffrage anniversary and then closed again as the state restricted museum access in the fall. We hope to reopen in January and highlight the exhibit through March of 2021.

Programs and Presentations – Multiple programs were planned throughout 2020 but plans were adjusted due to the pandemic. January saw several events and the Rightfully Hers popup exhibit from the National Archives being displayed around town. The March exhibit open house was held on March 8 for International Women’s Day. 

The calendar resumed in August 2020 with the first event being the City of Evanston issuing a proclamation for the anniversary at its meeting on August 10th. Kris Hartzell gave a women’s history walking tour on August 15th with a suffrage focus. The Do It Yourself Suffrage March started August 18th. We jointly hosted a program with WTTW on August 17th about American Experience: The Vote. We held a Voting Rights Symposium with the Illinios Holocaust Museum and the Woman’s Club of Evanston on August 25th. And we held the exhibit opening and a Facebook Live presentation on August 26th. Our final program was the Suffrage Anniversary in Review program in October.

Suffrage 2020 Illinois – In May of 2019, we created a website for the Illinois suffrage anniversary. The Suffrage 2020 Illinois website launched in June 2019 in time for the 100th anniversary of Illinois being the first state to ratify the 19th amendment. This website has grown dramatically and now is the primary source of information online about the important role that Illinois played in the suffrage movement. In fall 2019, Loyola students and volunteers wrote blog posts to tell the Illinois suffrage story.

Votes for Women Trail – In 2018, Lori Osborne (EWHP Director) took on the role of Illinios Coordinator for the Votes for Women Trail which is a project to map and mark suffrage sites in every state. To this date, more than 53 sites in Illinois have been added to the national map and five sites have been designated as sites for historic markers, including one in Evanston for Catharine Waugh McCulloch. The League of Women Voters of Illinois was a key partner on this project, and many volunteers and interns completed research for mapping and marking sites.

Women’s Vote 100 Evanston Planning GroupIn June of 2019, a group of Evanston organizations assembled to discuss planning for the anniversary. This group included representatives from women’s organizations, arts organizations, the City of Evanston, and marketing organizations. This group met several times over the course of the 2019 and discussed and created a calendar of programs and events. Events began in January 2020, but almost all were cancelled or postponed to August 2020 or later due to the pandemic. The group continued to meet online and to jointly promote the events.

Thank you to all these partners who made the Evanston suffrage anniversary possible!

Evanston History Center
League of Women Voters of Evanston
City of Evanston
Evanston Made
North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau
Evanston Public Library
Evanston League of Women Voters
Northwestern University, Women’s Center
Evanston Community Foundation
YWCA Evanston/North Shore
Downtown Evanston
Woman’s Club of Evanston
Frances Willard House Museum