About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks at the Expanding Democracy Conference at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

October 28, 2020

Good afternoon.  I’m Debra Steidel Wall, Deputy Archivist of the United States. Welcome to this special conference, Expanding Democracy: The 19th Amendment and Voting Rights Today.

The National Archives is honored to be the home of the 19th Amendment and to commemorate its 100th anniversary with the American people. The campaign for woman suffrage was long, difficult, and often dramatic. The National Archives holds the records that help tell this story, including petitions, legislation, court cases, and more.

This year, we have explored the complex story of the struggle for woman suffrage, leading up to and beyond the ratification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1920, with online programs for all ages, including the Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote exhibit. We believe it is essential to continue to examine these issues today, and discussions like those you will hear this afternoon play an important role in deepening our understanding. 

Now, to examine some of the key issues in expanding voting rights from the early 20th century to the present day in more detail, I am delighted to introduce the participants in this afternoon’s panel. 

We are honored to welcome Jennifer Lawless, the Commonwealth Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia; Erin O’Brien, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University; and Marjorie Spruill, distinguished professor emerita of history at the University of South Carolina. 

It is also a pleasure to have Rachael Cobb, professor of government and chair of the government department at Suffolk University, to moderate this afternoon’s conversation. 

Please join me in welcoming our panel for this important discussion.