PRINCETON — This year marks the 100th anniversary since the women’s suffrage bill passed Illinois legislature – giving women the right to vote.
Among the various celebrations throughout the year to highlight this great mark in history, the Tiskilwa Historical Society, this month, invited Chicago historian Leslie Goddard to portray five famous Illinois suffragists in a program highlighting the sufferage movement.
The program was well received in Tiskilwa, and Tiskilwa Historical Society Director Cecille Gerber was pleased with the amount of education and entertainment it brought together for citizens.
Gerber recently sat down to talk about the importance of honoring the anniversary of women’s suffrage.
“I think the 99th year is just as important as the 100th year, but a lot of times an anniversary gives us an extra reason to call attention to something a lot of people don’t know much about,” she said. “It’s important for people to realize, especially young women, that (voting) wasn’t always an option.”
In 1913, Illinois women were only given the right to vote in presidential and local village official elections. Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi River to allow this right to women.
A huge local connection to this mark in history was Sen. Hugh S. Magill, the father of the bill who had also been principal at Princeton High School.
Gerber explained the decision in 1913 was just a starting point. Women still weren’t able to vote for state Senates or House of Representatives, but it gained traction for the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
“(Goddard’s) point was with any movement, some people say, ‘No, we want it all. We want it all or nothing.’ But what (women) came around to was let’s take this, and then we will get the next step and the next step,” she said.
In Goddard’s presentation, she highlighted just a few of the many excuses men, as well as the women against the suffrage moment, spoke out against why it was wrong for women to vote.
Many thought allowing women to vote would be “terrible” for the American family. They said women wouldn’t stay in the home; they would stop raising children; they would vote the same as their husbands, so votes would only double for a given candidate, or it would be contrary — they would vote the opposite of their husbands and cancel out votes.
Reviewing the reasons, Gerber said the ridiculous excuses still had nothing to do with the fact that women as citizens deserved the right to vote.
Looking back on her own family history, Gerber thinks of her grandmother, who died before she was born. Gerber’s grandmother lived during women’s suffrage.
“She lived 10 to 15 years where she couldn’t vote,” she said. “She wasn’t able to vote until she was 37 years old.”
The funny thing for Gerber is her grandmother’s old scrapbooks, which were saved after her death included many cutouts of political humor, giving proof that some women during that time did follow political matters and showed an interest of the political world.
The most fascinating part of the women suffrage movement for Gerber is the bravery women and men wore during the times.
“I think about how brave these women and men were to put it out there,” she said. “Through the ridicule, the humiliation, they just believed in their cause ... There’s just a certain amount of bravery to be able to just say. ‘I don’t care what other people think; I think this is right in my heart,’”
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