A century ago, women didn’t know if they would accomplish what they wanted but they knew they had to try. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the women’s suffrage amendment.
“Suffrage simply means the right to vote, so until 1920 women in Missouri were denied the right to vote in any election,” says Katie Moon from the Missouri History Museum.
The Suffrage movement was national but many historic moments happened right here in St. Louis, like the story of Virginia Minor.
Virginia Minor became a leader in the women’s rights movement. She founded the Women’s Suffrage Association of Missouri along with other women. She attempted to register to vote but was turned away in St. Louis so she filed a lawsuit.
The bravery of Virginia Minor and several other women was the motivation behind the Missouri History Museum’s new exhibit “Beyond the Ballot: St. Louis & Suffrage”.
In the exhibit, you’ll find artifacts, stories and pictures about what women did before they earned the right to vote.
“Even without the vote, women were impacting St. Louis & were really making change in the city,” Moon says. “Women actually lost rights after the Louisiana Purchase so in the early days prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 women could purchase property, run their own businesses, sue in court, but then when we became American we lost a lot of those rights so I thought it was important to show what women were fighting for.”
There are also graphic novel style illustrations of diverse and influential women drawn by local female artist Rori!
“With this exhibit we really wanted to explore some of those stories. We had to choose 32 and when I first started looking I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find enough and ended up with over 100 probably closer to 150 women,” Moon says.
Moon says, “We often look at history books and women are always the wife of somebody or not even given a name and I thought it was really important to bring it around and say we’ve been here the whole time and a lot of things that are still here today are here because women created them or organized them.”
You’ll see the sash from the Golden Lane Parade which was unlike any parade you have ever seen. The Golden Lane Parade was a silent parade, it was a protest. The women all wore white and held a yellow umbrella much like the ones you’ll see at the entrance.
“In 1916, the Democratic National Convention was in St. Louis & the women thought we’ve talked long enough. So they made this plan to where all of the delegates were staying at the Jefferson Hotel which is still there, the Jefferson Arms Hotel, and then they were going to the convention at the Coliseum which is a straight shot down Locust. So the men ate their breakfast at the Jefferson Hotel and then walked to the Coliseum and as they were walking there were just rows of women wearing white dresses and their yellow votes for women sashes just standing there silent, staring them down. What they were wanting is for the Democrats to put a suffrage plank on the presidential platform. The women couldn’t vote it in themselves. They had to convince the men to share power,” Moon explains.
This 6,000 square foot special exhibit shows that St. Louis women led the way to victory and proves that there’s nothing we can’t accomplish when we do it together.
“Our stories matter, we women we under value what we bring to the table & often think that our voice isn’t heard or isn’t important. Every woman’s story is important. Our vote is important. These women spent over 50 years fighting to give us the right to vote and we really need to use that right that they got for us,” Moon says.
“Beyond the Ballot: St. Louis & Suffrage” is at the Missouri History Museum through March 2022 to make sure everyone has enough time to see it. You need to pre-register at MoHistory.org to get into the building and you have to wear a mask.