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FGCU library hosts women’s suffrage virtual exhibition

FGCU library hosts women’s suffrage virtual exhibition
EN photo by Julia Bonavita.

By Jules Bustamante

Contributing Writer

Fight for the Ballot: Voting Rights in the 20th Century is the Bradshaw Library’s Archives and Special Collections’ 2020-21 virtual exhibition. It shows how women and minorities fought for their right to vote, along with other changes in American politics.

The kickoff meeting, Did Susan B. Anthony Need A Pardon? Women’s Suffrage, Personhood, and Race in the 19th Century was held on Sept. 23.

FGCU Professor and Expert of English & Gender Studies Dr. Jordan Von Cannon discussed with curator Bailey Rodgers the importance of the suffragette movement and first-wave feminism.

President Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony on Aug. 18, 2020. Anthony was arrested and charged with voter fraud in 1872 after she demanded to vote at an election. Anthony wanted to prove that she could vote under the 14th amendment, which stated that all born or naturalized people in the United States were citizens. The amendment did not specify which race or gender counted.

Von Cannon said that Anthony did not need a pardon because she wanted to get the court involved and get the general public’s attention.

“Susan B. Anthony’s defense was, ‘If I’m a citizen, then I didn’t commit a crime because I’m eligible to vote,’” Von Cannon said. “‘Or if I committed a crime because I’m not a citizen, you’re saying I’m not a person. If I’m not a person, then I’m not subject to the laws of a country.’ I think that it’s the most brilliant argument.”

The Bradshaw Library emphasized in the exhibition that all people, including women and people of color, are citizens that deserve to vote.

“Anthony’s act of defiance is a shining example of what we’re trying to convey,” Rodgers said.

They also discussed the importance of intersectionality.

Suffragettes and slavery abolitionists fought together for equal voting rights for all Americans. Frederick Douglass supported women’s suffrage, and the online exhibition displays the stories of Black suffragettes as well.

Von Cannon acknowledged that there were still tensions of sexism and racism between the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Black women and other women of color were caught in the intersections, even though they contributed to both movements.

“I think that this is one of the things we see today with the Black Lives Matter movement and its sister movement, Say Her Name,” Von Cannon said. “This is one of the ongoing ways that oppression works.”

By learning from the past, Von Cannon believes that others can create empathy and understanding between each other. This can also make movements better.

With the November election approaching, Rodgers said that it is crucial for women to vote because of those who backed the suffragette movement.

“Voting can really change our country,” Rodgers said. “It’s important for women to vote because women and men fought for our rights about 100 years ago. They weren’t just handed to us.”

The next event, Voices for Women’s Suffrage, will be held on Oct. 28 from 6-7 p.m.

The digital exhibition and registration for the event can be found on the library’s website. 

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