New Exhibit  Celebrates Centennial of Women's Suffrage
Press Release · Thursday, March 28, 2019

Washington, DC

The National Archives celebrates the centennial of Women’s suffrage with a new exhibit, Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, opening on May 10, 2019. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and will be on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, through January 3, 2021. 

This 3,000-square-foot exhibit showcases more than 90 items including records, artifacts and photographs.  Highlights include original World War One-era Red Cross Uniforms, a National Woman's Party banner, and a collection of political campaign buttons.

American democracy dramatically expanded in 1920, when the newly-ratified 19th Amendment granted millions of women the right to vote. Though a landmark voting rights victory, this document did not open the polls to all women. Millions remained unable to vote for reasons other than sex.  Rightfully Hers examines the relentless struggle of diverse activists throughout U.S. history to secure voting rights for all American women by exploring these questions:

  • Section 1:  Who decides who votes?  
  • Section 2:  Why did women fight for the vote?
  • Section 3:  How did women win the 19th Amendment?
  • Section 4:  What was the 19th Amendment’s impact?
  • Section 5:  What voting rights struggles persist?

Visitors will be able to:

  • See the original Nineteenth Amendment (on limited display - check back for dates) 
  • Vote on contemporary ballot-box issues that matter the most to you 
  • Learn more about the Equal Rights Amendment  
  • Glimpse rare footage of suffrage protests and women voting for the first time
  • View the petition from the Women Voters Anti-Suffrage Party to the Senate
  • View records from suffragists’ struggle to secure women’s right to vote in the Constitution, including this Universal Suffrage petition signed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone
  • See a Petition for Woman Suffrage signed by Frederick Douglass, Jr. and Rosetta Douglass Sprague 
  • Solve an interactive maze of obstacles faced in the struggle for greater gender equality 
  • ​Explore the ongoing struggle for the vote that many women faced after ratification of the 19th Amendment and learn what it ultimately took to win voting rights for diverse groups of Americans

The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Ave. at 9th Street, NW. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Rightfully Hers is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Unilever, Pivotal Ventures, Carl M. Freeman Foundation in honor of Virginia Allen Freeman, AARP, AT&T, Ford Motor Company Fund, Facebook, Barbara Lee Family Foundation Fund at the Boston Foundation, Google, HISTORY®, and Jacqueline B. Mars.

Related public programs

The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty
April 5, 2019 at noon, William G. McGowan Theater and on YouTube
In The Matriarch, journalist and author Susan Page traces Barbara Bush’s life from growing up in Rye, NY, to becoming America’s First Lady. While her own beliefs sometimes differed from her husband’s, she nevertheless became an astute campaign strategist, helping him to win the nomination and the White House. A book signing follows the program. Reserve your seat here.  

Hands-on Adult Voting Rights Escape Room!
Wednesday, April 17, 6-8 PM, Boeing Learning Center
Race against the clock while you solve puzzles and uncover mysteries about the fight for voting rights in the US. To commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, students from Montgomery College's Gaming and Simulation Program have designed and created Escape Games exploring voting rights. Can you unravel the clues and protect the vote? Register online here.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics
April 18, 2019 at 7 p.m. William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Authors  Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore discuss their new book, sharing lessons they’ve learned and the fights they’ve won and lost. Together, they call themselves the “Colored Girls.” As political strategists, organizers, CEOs, and more, they made history and shaped politics. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart will moderate a discussion as these trailblazers share their personal journeys and offer a roadmap for other women of color. A book signing follows the program.  Reserve your seat here

First: Sandra Day O’Connor, An American Life
April 24, 2019 at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Sandra Day O’Connor’s repeatedly shattered glass ceilings—doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, and cowgirl toughness. Author and journalist Evan Thomas’ authoritative biography is based on exclusive interviews and first-time access to Justice O’Connor’s archives. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss will moderate the discussion. A book signing follows the program. Reserve your seat here

Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote
May 10, 2019 at noon, William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Looking beyond the national leadership of the suffrage movement, author and historian Susan Ware gives voice to the thousands of women from different backgrounds, races, and religions whose local passion and protest resounded throughout the land.  Why They Marched is a tribute to the many women who worked tirelessly, out of the spotlight, protesting, petitioning, and insisting on their right to full citizenship.  A book signing follows the program. 

Amending America: How Women Won the Vote
May 10, 2019 at 4 pm, William G. McGowan Theater and YouTube
Kate Campbell Stevenson presents a first-person dramatic monologue, music and poetry.  In her one-woman show she brings to life historical women with “can do” attitudes

Rightfully Hers Discovery Carts
May 11, 10 am -4 pm, National Archives Museum
Investigate the journey of American women’s fight to win the vote and the passage of the 19th Amendment through hands-on discovery carts located throughout the museum.  Learn about the people, the issues and how an amendment is passed.  This program is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Unilever, Pivotal Ventures, Carl M. Freeman Foundation in honor of Virginia Allen Freeman, and AARP.

Women and the Vote: The 19th Amendment, Power, Media, and the Making of a Movement
May 16, 2019 at 7 pm, William G. McGowan Theater
What methods did the Suffragists use to communicate their message and how did the media and public representations of women shape the battle for the 19th Amendment?  Learn about the unparalleled communications machine of the suffrage movement with panelists: Rebecca Boggs Roberts, author of Suffragists in Washington, DC; Elizabeth Griffith, author of In Her Own Right; Linda Lumsden, Professor of Journalism, University of Arizona; and others.  Presented in partnership with the 2020 Women's Vote Centennial Initiative.

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony 
May 17, 24, and 31, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
Two women. One allegiance. Together they fought for women everywhere, and their strong willpower and sheer determination still ripples through contemporary society. Recount the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as they strive to give birth to the women’s movement. Not until their deaths was their shared vision of women’s suffrage realized. See the Peabody award-winning 1999 PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes.

  • Part 1:  May 17, 2019 at noon
  • Part 2:  May 24, 2019 at noon
  • Part 3:  May 31, 2019 at noon

America's Jewish Women:  A History from Colonial Times to Today  
May 23, 2019 at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater
Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with Pamela Nadell, American University history professor and author of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, as she illuminates the role Jewish women played in the struggle for the 19th Amendment and women's rights.  Nadell also weaves together stories of a diverse group of extraordinary people―from the colonial-era matriarch Grace Nathan and her great-granddaughter, poet Emma Lazarus, to labor organizer Bessie Hillman and the great justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to scores of other activists, workers, wives, and mothers who helped carve out a Jewish American identity. A book signing follows the program. Presented in partnership with the Capitol Jewish Museum and the 2020 Women's Vote Centennial Initiative.

All Roads Lead to Power: The Appointed and Elected Paths to Public Office for Women
June 4, 2019, at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
As professor Kaitlin Sidorsky discusses in her book All Roads Lead to Power, that many more women are appointed, rather than elected, to political office and why so many more women serve in this capacity. Sidorsky finds that entering politics through appointments is a far less partisan and negative entry point that connects to their personal lives or careers, and not due to lack of self-confidence or ambition. A book signing follows the program.

Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, 1992-2016
June 13, 2019 at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
When Abigail Adams implored her husband to “Remember the Ladies,” John Adams scoffed, declaring, “We know better than to repeal our masculine system.” More than 200 years later, American women continue to struggle against the idea that they are simply vassal extensions of their husbands. In Moms in Chief, author Tammy R. Vigil shows how the age-old rhetoric of republican motherhood maintains its hold on the public portrayal of womanhood in American politics.  A book signing follows the program.  

Female Candidates for Political Office
June 13, 2019 at 7 pm, William G. McGowan Theater
Discussion presented in partnership with the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress.

The Widow Washington: The Life of Mary Washington
July 1, 2019 at noon, William G. McGowan Theater
The Widow Washington uses archival sources to examine the life of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother. While many of her biographers have painted her as self-centered obstacle to her son, records tell a different story.  A book signing follows the program 

Related travelling exhibit:
One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women
uses National Archives records to highlight stories from American history about women’s rights and roles in society.  The exhibit explores three themes:

  • Winning the Vote - First introduced in Congress in 1878, a woman suffrage amendment was continuously proposed for the next 41 years until it passed both houses of Congress in 1919 and was ratified by the states in 1920. However, ratification did not ensure full enfranchisement. Many women remained unable to vote because of discriminatory laws.
  • After the Vote - Three years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was initially proposed in Congress in an effort to secure full equality for women. It failed to achieve ratification, but women achieved greater equality through legal victories that continued the effort to expand rights, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which codified the right to vote for all women.
  • Redefining Roles - Discover how women redefined the roles assumed of them, from Civil War soldier Sara Emma Seeyle, to the millions of women who joined the war effort, including those who served in the military as WAVES, WACs, and WASPS.  

Presented in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Unilever, Pivotal Ventures, Carl M. Freeman Foundation in honor of Virginia Allen Freeman, and AARP. Additional support provided by AT&T, Facebook, and FedEx.

Related Online and Educational Resources:
DocsTeach:  Women's Rights and Roles in American History features primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to women's rights and changing roles in American history. Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources are also featured in the exhibits Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, and One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women. Highlights include primary documents and lesson plans on:  Petitions & Letters;  Protests & Suffrage Activities ; The Anti-Suffrage Movement;  Citizenship Rights; and Women Who Pushed The Boundaries.  

Records Reveal Women’s Equal Rights Struggles - National Archives News story
Women’s History and Centennial of the 19th Amendment - National Archives News webpage highlights online resources


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This page was last reviewed on April 9, 2019.
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