2020 is the start of a new decade, but it also marks an important anniversary for women’s rights in the United States: the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment.
The 19th Amendment, ratified on August 18th, 1920, ensured that women across the country had the right to vote. It came after nearly a century of efforts by prominent female activists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Motts, a resounding victory in a hard-fought battle for equality.
There were still hurdles to overcome, such as the persistent disenfranchisement of African Americans, but 1920 was a monumental year for the equality movement, and we remember those accomplishments in a special way this year.
The issue is especially near and dear to Mercyhurst. After all, Mercyhurst was founded as a college for women by the Sisters of Mercy, an all-female religious order, only six years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The quest for women’s rights, therefore, is ingrained in the fabric of Mercyhurst.
Even today, the Sisters of Mercy list the continued oppression of women as one of their Critical Concerns — the fight for suffrage may have been won in the United States one hundred years ago, but the fight for gender equality worldwide is ongoing.
Mercyhurst is hosting a variety of events throughout the rest of the spring semester to commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage. These events were coordinated by a cross-departmental group of professors and staff, including Verna Ehret, Ph.D.
Ehret, associate professor of Religious Studies and director of the Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society at Mercyhurst, was involved in planning the 100 Years of Suffrage commemoration at Mercyhurst. In discussing the importance of suffrage and its meaning today, Ehret said, “The ability to vote is the ability to have a voice… How do we make space for women’s voices, and how do we listen to women’s voices?”
Dr. Danielle McGuire sought to answer these questions on Feb. 4, when she came to campus and gave a riveting lecture about the link between the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the modern #MeToo movement. The advocacy and activism of women, particularly African American women, was vital to the success of the civil rights movement. The bravery exhibited by those women lives on in the countless women who today have taken a stand against sexual violence and harassment by lifting their voices to share their own stories.
On March 18th, Leanne Roberts Ph.D will moderate a panel of distinguished female Mercyhurst alumni in the “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” event. The panel will include former PNC Bank president Marlene Mosco, LECOM Director of Operations Melanie Titzel and several other accomplished women. They will share their experiences as high-achieving women in the workplace and discuss their paths to success.
Additionally, on April 1, Mercyhurst will host Suki Fuller to speak about her own career experience. Fuller was recognized in 2019 as a Mercyhurst Distinguished Alumnus and founded the London-based intelligence consulting firm, Miribure.
These events reinforce Mercyhurst’s reputation as a force championing the voices and experiences of women, and as 2020 continues, there is no better time to continue to advocate for women—especially marginalized women—than the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage.