The San Antonio 19th Amendment Centennial Committee has a week of events planned to honor the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement and ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
The committee took form when Ashley Harris, a local executive, noticed that few community events had been planned to celebrate the anniversary, especially during August, which has been designated as National Women’s Suffrage Month. She began brainstorming with other women on how the anniversary could be celebrated in San Antonio within the limitations of COVID-19. One meeting led to another, and the committee grew to 50 women from across the city, working on about 10 scheduled events for the anniversary.
“It’s the hundredth anniversary, this only happens once,” Harris said. “So everybody just kind of came together and really just did everything that could pull this off in about three and a half weeks.”
For Harris, the initiative to organize this celebration stems from her family’s own activism for women’s suffrage.
“My great-grandmother marched through the streets of Boston for my right to vote, and believe me when I tell you, I was never allowed to forget that,” Harris said.
Aug. 26 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment being certified into the U.S. Constitution.
The first event to kick off the week-long celebration on Aug. 16 will be the tying of white ribbons around trees at Brackenridge Park in a tribute to suffragist Eleanor Brackenridge, the first woman to register to vote in Bexar County. Committee members will be wearing white to honor the suffragists who wore the color in solidarity and strength as they sought the right to vote. Even those not attending can do the same, Harris said.
“We really wanted to tailor some of the projects to help people get engaged based on their comfort level with the current health environment,” Harris said. “So, it can be as simple as tying a ribbon around your tree, so you don’t have to get out and don’t have to participate in anything. Or it can be purchasing a T-shirt for a fundraiser for the League of Women Voters, or even just wearing white.”
Beginning Aug. 18, the committee also plans on having over 500 white ribbons tied to the trees along the San Antonio River Walk. The committee has received support and sponsorship for the events from groups all over the city, including the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, which will be sponsoring ribbons for the celebration.
Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) is one of the six female council members on the committee and is organizing an aircraft flyover scheduled for 11 a.m. Aug. 21 from Stinson Municipal Airport. Viagran chose Stinson as the location for the flyover to honor the aviation accomplishments of the Stinson sisters, Marjorie and Katherine, for whom the airport is named, along with their brother Eddie.
“We’re just so thrilled to be having that happen, and really show just the past, the present, and the future San Antonio how women were doing things even before they had the right to vote,” Viagran said, “and really marking this anniversary and the advances that women have made, which has been more poignant seeing Kamala Harris announced as the VP selection for this [fall’s] election.”
Three pilots from the Women in Aviation Alamo City chapter will lead the flyover, with the aircraft soaring over the San Antonio Missions, the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine, downtown San Antonio, the Pearl, Providence High School, Brackenridge Park, Incarnate Word High School, the University of the Incarnate Word, Our Lady of the Lake University, and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
Commemorating the centennial of women’s suffrage makes up for Women’s History Month events that were canceled in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Viagran said.
“We were going to have events, we were going to have a conference for young girls – a girls empowerment conference,” she said. “We had a lot planned in the month of March, Women’s History Month, but because of COVID, we had to scrap all of that. So it’s great that we can do that in this month of August, when the ratifications and the final ratification actually took place.”
The events are scheduled to take place from Aug. 18 to Aug. 26, concluding with a virtual event Aug. 26 hosted by the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area and a coalition of women’s groups called Can We Talk?. The 7 p.m. event, titled “Hard Won, Not Done” is a discussion about the past and current efforts by women to participate in democracy.
The event’s guest of honor will be Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, assistant dean for civic engagement at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, San Antonio’s poet laureate, is scheduled to perform a song created for the celebration.
More information on the centennial events can be found here.