Suffrage movement explored Wednesday at Dowagiac museum

Michigan suffragists hold a parade in downtown Dowagiac during the city’s Homecoming Celebration in 1912.

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Area History Museum Fall Lecture Series continues this Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., with Ruth Stevens presenting “Getting the Vote: A History of Women’s Suffrage in Michigan.”

With the upcoming 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the museum felt it was time to examine and celebrate Michigan’s part in the suffrage movement.

Ruth Stevens is a retired professor of legal studies at Grand Valley State University, where she taught women and the law, among other courses.

Michigan women were on the forefront of the national women’s suffrage movement because Michigan was one of the few states where women could vote in school elections long before they won full suffrage. According to Stevens, “Michigan’s constitution was the barrier which stood in the way of women’s enfranchisement and Michigan’s state and local suffrage organizations waged mighty campaigns to strike out the constitutional language which kept them from the polls.”

Michigan suffragists worked tirelessly to sway the opinions of male legislators and voters and developed sophisticated state and local organizations that relied heavily on partnerships with groups as diverse as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Michigan Grange. Undaunted by defeats and court decisions, the suffragists persisted and won full suffrage in 1918, a full year before the 19th Amendment granted suffrage to women across the country.

Stevens is now a member of the board of the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council and has published articles in the Michigan Historical Review and Stereoscope, the journal of the Historical Society of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Stevens has also presented Michigan suffragette history for conferences of the Michigan Historical Society.

The program is free to museum members and $5 for nonmembers. Children under 18 are admitted free. Membership will be available at the museum.

The museum is at the corner of Division and West Railroad streets. For more information, call the museum at 783-2560, or visit www.dowagiacmuseum.info.