CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote: A Symposium” will be held in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The program will begin at 10 a.m. and is free and open to the public.

The symposium will feature three dynamic historians and speakers—Joan C. Browning, Dr. Katharine Antolini and Mary Johnson—and recognition of West Virginia women legislators by Girl Scout Troop 1920.

Schedule of Events

10 – 11 a.m. – Joan C. Browning, “West Virginia and the 19th Amendment”
Joan Browning’s presentation on West Virginia’s consideration of the 19th Amendment will focus on how state and national personages converged on Charleston, all anxious as the remaining states predisposed to approve the amendment were dwindling. She will focus on state senator Jesse Bloch whose race across the continent to cast his vote captivated the newspaper reading nation. West Virginia Institute of Technology brought Browning to the Mountain State on a one-year contract in 1969. She returned for good a few years later and since has been following her mentor Ms. Ella J. Baker’s advice: she has been stepping outside her door and doing the good that she finds awaiting her there. Women’s issues have been awaiting her, as have all aspects of education from adult literacy to community college and the West Virginia University Center for Women’s Studies, and from dairy goats to special assistant to the Honorable Andrea Pendleton, mayor of the Town of Rainelle.

11 a.m. – noon – Dr. Katharine Antolini, “A Cause Which Had Its Greatest Enemy Among Its Own Victims”
Early suffrage leader Lucretia Mott once described the fight for the vote as “a cause which had its greatest enemy among its own victims.” She was frustrated over the indifference with which women regarded their lack of political rights in the 19th century. By the early 20th century, what shocked suffragists more was not the women who seemingly remained aloof to the cause, but the women who actively organized against female suffrage—insisting that the majority of American women did not desire, or need, the vote. Dr. Antolini’s discussion will explore the various arguments and tactics used by the anti-suffrage movement in its struggle to defeat the 19th Amendment. Dr. Antolini is an associate professor of history at West Virginia Wesleyan College, specializing in women’s history and social history.

Noon – 1 p.m. – Break

1 – 2 p.m. – Girl Scout Troop 1920 Recognition of West Virginia Women Legislators, Past and Present

2 – 3 p.m. – Mary Johnson, “Fighting the Long Fight: West Virginia Women and the Right to Vote”
The ink on West Virginia’s Constitution was barely dry when the first woman suffrage bills were introduced in the West Virginia Legislature. It wasn’t until the 1890s, however, that women organized in the state to pursue the right to vote. From that point until ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, more than one generation of West Virginia women struggled in the long fight to gain their political rights. In her talk, Johnson will explore than decades-long struggle and premiere a new Archives and History online exhibit on that long history. Johnson is a historian at West Virginia Archives and History.

For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.