About the National Archives

Remarks at the “Rightfully Hers” Exhibit Opening

Rotunda Galleries, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
May 8, 2019

Good evening! I’m very pleased to see you all here for our newest exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote. It is also wonderful to see many distinguished members of the House and Senate here tonight. Welcome!

Rightfully Hers tells the story of women’s struggle for voting rights as a critical step towards equal citizenship. In this country, most Americans consider the ability to vote fundamental to the enjoyment of full citizenship, yet American women were long denied that right.

This exhibit highlights hard-won victories that stemmed from the woman suffrage movement. But it also reminds modern-day citizens of their responsibilities and encourages all to be “election ready” and exercise the right to vote. 

As home to some of the most important records from the woman suffrage story, the National Archives is uniquely positioned to create a powerful educational experience that relates the fuller story of the struggle to make the vote a reality for all women.

Rightfully Hers has been years in the making, and it took the concerted efforts of National Archives staff across the country. Thank you to Corinne Porter, the curator of “Rightfully Hers,” Ray Ruskin—exhibit designer; Michael Hussey, project manager; Darlene McClurkin—A/V coordinator; Karen Hibbitt, registrar; Patrick Kepley, registrar technician, Jim Zeender, senior registrar, conservators Morgan Browning, Dong Eun Kim [Dong Oon Kim] and Rachel Bartgis; Sheri Hill, Digital Imaging Specialist; and editor Mary Ryan. Many, many more National Archives staff members played essential roles: archivists and technicians in textual, motion pictures, and still pictures, digital imaging specialists, curators, and conservators. This exhibit would not have happened without collaboration among so many National Archives staff, here in Washington, DC, and across the agency.

In addition, I would like to thank the Historian Advisory Panel: Dr. Robyn Muncy, Guest Curator; Dr. Ann Gordon; Dr. Marjorie Spruill [Sprool]; Dr. Francille Rusan Wilson; and Dr. Tiffany Gill for devoting their time and expertise in guiding this exhibit.

I want to express gratitude to the National Archives Foundation and our sponsors for supporting the Rightfully Hers exhibit and our many other public outreach projects.

The Foundation has long supported us in our mission to serve the public and increase awareness of our remarkable holdings. We are truly grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the Foundation’s board members and its dedicated staff, which allows us to educate, entertain, and enlighten through our terrific exhibits and public programs.

As we open this new exhibit in commemoration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, it is truly an honor to introduce somebody who is the dream fulfilled of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the many other suffragettes who ensured that "We the People" actually means "We the People".   

On June 21, 1912, three-year-old Annunciata Lombardi and her family arrived in New York Harbor aboard the SS Duca D’Aosta—a journey which began in Fornelli in Southern Italy about 60 miles north of where my own family was beginning a similar journey at the same time.  By the time Annunciata reached voting age—she actually could!  About 25 years before she could have in her own country.

And now Annunciata’s daughter is the 52nd Speaker of the House! Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi became the first woman elected to serve as Speaker in 2007, and in 2019, she became the first person in more than 60 years to be reelected as Speaker. I know all of this because it is all here, in the Archives! The Speakership is "Rightfully Hers," and I think it is safe to say that she has "Rightfully Earned" her place among the great leaders spanning our Nation's history. It is therefore my great privilege to introduce our next speaker––The Speaker––Nancy Pelosi.